South Africa is generally sunny and pleasant and the winters are
usually mild. Snow mostly falls on the high mountain peaks of
the Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. The South African seasons are the
reverse of those of the Northern Hemisphere. Despite regional
climate differences, South Africa generally enjoys a mild climate
throughout the year. The areas with the most significant differences
in climate are the Western
Cape with its Mediterranean climate (warm, dry summers and wet,
cold winters), the northern areas (hot summer days and frequent
thunderstorms) and the coastal areas of KwaZulu-Natal (subtropical,
all year round beach weather and high humidity). Average temperatures
in South Africa can vary widely: Summer: October to March, 15°
C (60° F) to 35 ° C (96° F). Winter: April to September,
below 0° C (32° F) to 20° C (68° F).
Exposure to the sun
South Africa has one of the world’s highest daily sunshine
rates and visitors, who are not used to the sun, should take extra
care, especially between 11:00 and 15:00. Sunscreen lotion with
a protection factor of at least 15 is advised against the high
UV rating of the South African sun. A variety of good quality
products are available throughout the country.
For summer months, lightweight (cottons and linens), short-sleeved
clothes are best, although a light jersey might be needed for
the cooler evenings. Umbrellas and raincoats are essential for
the summers and the Western Cape winters. Warm clothes will be
needed for the winter months.
The SA monetary unit is the South African Rand (R) and it equals
100 cents. The international symbol of the Rand is ZAR. Bank notes
are issued in denominations of: R 200 (orange), R 100 (purple),
R 50 (pink), R 20 (brown), R 10 (green), Coins are issued in denominations
of: R 5 (silver), R 2 (silver), R 1 (silver), 50 c (copper), 20
c (copper), 10 c (copper), 5 c (copper), 2 c (copper), 1 c (copper)
Before leaving the customs hall, duty has to be paid on items
that are over the allowed limits.
Cigarettes 200 per/p, Cigars 20 per/p, Cigarette or pipe tobacco
250g per/p, Wine 2 litres per/p, Spirits or other alcoholic beverages
1 litre per/p, Perfume 50 ml per/p Eau de Toilette 250 ml per/p,
Gifts, souvenirs and all other goods R 500, A flat rate of 20
percent is charged on gifts in excess of R3 000 and up to R12
Important note: No person under 18 is entitled to a tobacco or
Duty-free goods can be bought at Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban
Drivers must be in possession of a valid driver’s permit
containing a photograph and the signature of the holder and it
should be printed in English. Should a permit not comply with
these requirements, an International Driver’s Permit will
be needed. South Africa has adopted the credit-card-type licence
Alcohol / Drugs Laws
The legal alcohol limit for drivers is 0,05%. This law is very
strictly enforced. Penalties are severe and could even include
a prison sentence. Alcohol is not served or sold to any person
under 18 years and may not be consumed public places. All habit-forming
drugs are banned in South Africa and prescriptions are necessary
for all Schedule 3 to 7 drugs. All Schedule 8 drugs are strictly
The Automobile Association (AA) is South Africa’s biggest
motoring club and will provide assistance to tourists who experience
problems with their vehicles if they can produce a membership
card of a motoring association affiliated to the AA through the
AIT (Alliance Internationale de Tourisme) or FIA (Fédération
de l’Automobile). The emergency number of the AA breakdown
service is: 082 16 111
The wearing of seatbelts is compulsory and strictly enforced by
South Africans drive on the left-hand side of the road. The speed
limit is 60 km/h (35 mph) in urban areas, unless indicated otherwise.
The speed limit on national roads is 120 km/h (75 mph), unless
indicated otherwise and 100 km/h (60 mph) on rural roads. Road
signs are in English and distances are indicated in metres and
Toll fees are payable on some South African roads. The amounts
charged vary widely and visitors are advised to have enough cash
SA electricity supply: 220/230 volts AC 50 Hz. Exceptions: Pretoria
(230 V) and Port Elizabeth (200/250 V). 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, which is available
in South Africa. International plugs sold in other countries do
not work in South Africa,
including those stating Africa. Plugs are obtainable at general
supermarkets, hardware and luggage stores in South Africa.
Visitors entering South Africa are required to be in possession
of a valid passport. Most passport holders need visas to enter
South Africa, but some countries are exempt from this arrangement.
Check with a travel agent or the nearest SA representative to
determine if one is needed. Visas should be obtained in the tourist’s
own country and will not be issued in South Africa. Visas are
issued free of charge. A multiple-entry visa is needed if visitors
intend to travel to and from neighbouring countries during the
time in which the visa is valid. Upon arrival, visitors need to
present proof that they have enough money to support themselves
and need to be in
possession of a valid return ticket or enough money to purchase
a return ticket.
VERY IMPORTANT: Please ensure that your passport
is valid for six months after your visit to South Africa, and
that there are two blank pages available for stamps, to
All major credit cards such as American Express, Diner’s
Club, Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted. Visa and MasterCard
are the most popular and cause the least problems. American Express
and Diner's Club are not accepted in smaller towns due to high
commission fees charged to the retailers. Money can also be withdrawn
from these cards at various cash points.
There is a limit of R500.00 per person (local currency) allowed
when entering South Africa. There are no limits to the amount
of cash (in foreign currency) that visitors can bring into South
Africa. However, some countries have limits on the export of bank
notes and visitors are therefore advised to convert most of their
money to traveller’s cheques. The necessary permit should
be obtained from the South African Reserve Bank (the central bank
of South Africa) if visitors wish to leave the country with more
than R5 000 in cash in their possession. Import of foreign currency
is free, subject to declaration. Export of foreign currency is
limited to the amount that the visitor declared upon arrival.
For more information, contact any Customs and Excise Office.
South Africa has a sophisticated banking system that can accommodate
all international transactions. Banking hours: Monday - Friday,
9:00 to 15:30 Saturday, 8:30 to 11:00 Automatic teller machines
are open 24 hours a day. Automatic Teller Machines are only available
in some very small towns, and in the rural areas these facilities
may be unavailable. Commercial banking services are available
two hours before and two hours after the arrival and departure
times of international flights, 24 hours a day.
Banks, foreign exchange bureaus and certain hotels accept all
major foreign currencies, as do most restaurants,businesses and
shops. The best currencies to use would be the US Dollar, the
British Pound and the Euro. Traveller’s cheques can also
be exchanged at any commercial bank. Most hotels, shops and businesses
also accept traveller’s cheques but a fee may be charged
for this service. American Express offices and most hotels also
have exchange facilities for guests (we recommend this only in
emergencies as the rate of exchange is not favourable). We recommend
changing currency at the airports where the rate is favourable
and the service is quick - service at banks in smaller towns may
Rennies Foreign Exchange Money Line is a toll-free information
line, which operates 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. The
number is 0861 11 11 77 for rates and 0860 11 11 77 for general
information. A touch-tone telephone or cellular phone is needed
to access the system from within South Africa.
Major South African Commercial Banks
ABSA Bank Limited
First National Bank of Southern Africa Limited
Nedcor Bank Limited
The Standard Bank of South Africa Limited
Branches of Foreign Banks in South Africa
Banko Espirito Santo e Comercial de
Banque Française du Commerce Exterieur
National Bank of Egypt
Standard Chartered Bank
Swiss Bank Corporation
There are numerous filling stations in cities, towns and on principal
road routes and most of them are open 24 hours a day. Unleaded
fuel is available in South Africa but many cars have not been
converted for unleaded fuel. Visitors using rental cars are advised
to ascertain if the vehicle has been converted before filling
up on unleaded fuel. Diesel is also readily available. Fuel cannot
be bought with an ordinary credit card and should be paid for
either in cash or with a special garage card. Please be aware
that fuel attendants are at all filling stations to assist in
filling your vehicle. It is common, but optional to give them
a small gratuity.
Country Health Risk Profile
South Africa offers all the excitement and adventure of the African
continent but with health and sanitation standards on a par with
that of the developed world. Simple common sense precautions will
ensure a healthy journey. Food and beverages served in tourist
establishments are prepared and served under hygienic conditions
and the tourist runs no greater risk of contracting traveller’s
diarrhoea than in the south of Europe. Tap water is safe in all
cities and towns. Insect-borne diseases occur as anywhere else
in the world. The most important diseases for the tourist to take
note of are malaria, limited to a small geographic region, and
tick bite fever, limited to rural areas and affecting mainly hikers
and adventure tourists. South African private sector health-care
facilities compare with the best in the world but visitors are
urged to take out travel health insurance prior to departure from
their respective home countries.
Please remember, for your own safety and peace of mind, it is
advisable that you consult a travel health practitioner at least
two weeks before visiting any country. The Department of Health
of the Government of South Africa abides by World Health Organization
(WHO) International Health Regulations. Apart from yellow fever
vaccination, there are NO other compulsory vaccines for travellers
to South Africa. However, the following vaccines may be recommended
by travel health practitioners: Routine
Adventure tourists going off the beaten track.
Contact-sport players, Health care workers.
Sometimes long-term rural residents.
Sometimes veterinarians, game rangers. NOT for the average tourist.
Bilharzia (Schistosomiasis) is a microscopic organism found in
rivers, streams, pools and dams (both stagnant and flowing) in
the northern and eastern areas of the country. Visitors are advised
not to swim in unchlorinated pools, dams or rivers in these areas.
Any water for consumption other than from a tap should be boiled
beforehand. There is no immunisation against Bilharzia and symptoms
may only present months or years after exposure.
Isolated cases do occur in disadvantaged communities. However,
these areas are not normally on the standard tourist itinerary.
Vaccination is not a statutory requirement in South Africa. South
African tap water is safe to drink, except where indicated otherwise.
There is a high incidence of HIV/AIDS in South Africa. It is mainly
transmitted through sexual intercourse and every precaution needs
to be taken to have safe sex. Condoms are readily available from
pharmacies, hospitals, clinics and supermarkets. Medical facilities,
including injections and blood transfusions are sophisticated
and safe; blood is carefully screened before use.
Malaria is caused by a parasite that requires two different hosts
during its lifetime: humans and mosquitoes. It is transmitted
to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. Once inside humans,
the parasites move to the liver where they develop. After maturing,
they move back into the bloodstream where they invade and multiply
inside the red blood cells. The infected red blood cells burst,
releasing the parasites back into the bloodstream where the whole
process starts again. A malaria risk, predominantly in the malignant
form caused by P. falciparum, exists in certain low-veld regions
of the country, namely parts of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Maputoland
coast part of KwaZulu-Natal. Certain areas in the neighbouring
countries of Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Botswana are
also malaria areas. The warmer months from October to May are
the highest risk periods. SA has an extensive antimalaria programme
that has reduced the incidence of malaria by some 81percent in
The incubation period for malaria can be as short as seven days
or as long as several months. The majority of P. falciparum-malaria
patients develop symptoms and signs within two weeks from being
bitten by an infected mosquito.
Any flu-like illness: Headache, fever, rigors, malaise, weakness,
tiredness, dryness in mouth, muscle or joint pain and even diarrhoea.
SHOULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE MALARIA UNTIL PROVEN OTHERWISE.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Any person returning from a malaria area, who develops the abovementioned
symptoms, should consult a doctor preferably familiar with tropical
diseases immediately. Blood tests MUST be done to determine whether
the parasite is present.
Treatment must start immediately, and a blood smear must be carried
out, but please remember: One negative smear does not exclude
malaria. Smears must be repeated until malaria or another disease
is diagnosed. Malaria attacks can occur up to six months after
leaving a malaria area.
In all the risk areas, visitors should take precautionary measures
prevent mosquito bites at all times:
Wear long-sleeved clothing, long trousers and socks when outside
Use PEACEFUL SLEEP containing insect repellent on exposed skin
and reapply every four hours.
Sleep in a room / tent with mosquito screening in good condition
and /or air-conditioning.
Burn mosquito coils / mats in the bedroom.
Sleep under an insect-repellent mosquito net.
People at high risk
Children under five years of age
Immunocompromised people (e.g. people who have had a splenectomy,
or is on immune-suppression medication, such as cancer chemotherapy)
People who have used prophylaxis for a prolonged basis.
Chloroquine resistance occurs and chloroquine on its own is no
longer considered effective. Please consult a travel health consultant,
doctor or a pharmacist regarding the recommended preventative
medication and adhere to the instructions for taking the medication,
otherwise it will not be effective. Malaria prophylaxis should
be commenced prior to entering the area, for the duration of your
stay and for up to four weeks afterwards. One of the popular medicines
being used is Malerone.
Tick Bite Fever
African tick bite fever is a febrile disease transmitted by ticks
that have fed on infected dogs, cattle or game. The same measures
to avoid mosquito bites need to be taken to avoid or minimise
the risk of tick bites in rural and game watching areas. The disease
masquerades as a severe flu but is often accompanied by an eschar
(tick bite with a scab/necrotic skin), skin rash and or enlarged
lymphnodes. It is very rarely fatal, but is very dangerous to
the very young, very old and debilitated persons. It is effectively
treated with specific antibiotics. There is no vaccine available.
A valid Yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from
ALL travellers over one year of age entering South Africa within
six days of leaving a country listed as “Yellow Fever- Endemic”
by the WHO. Visitors who come from, travel through, or disembark
in these areas, are advised to be inoculated against yellow fever
at least ten days before visiting South Africa.
Yellow fever does not occur in South Africa and the above measures
are intended to protect the South African community from the disease
being imported. Yellow fever is a viral disease that is transmitted
from infected to susceptible people by a mosquito. Yellow fever
is endemic to West, Central and East Africa, as well as South
South Africa has 11 official languages but English is spoken well
by almost all South Africans and visitors will always be able
to have their needs met in English. Road signs and official notices
are all in English. Information documents and booklets are also
available in English, e.g. maps, telephone directories, forms
and tourist brochures.
Medical services are readily available in South Africa and are
sophisticated and safe for visitors to use. Blood is carefully
screened before use.
Doctors are listed by their surnames, under Medical , in the telephone
directories. Major hotels have an arrangement with doctors and
dentists to treat guests when needed.
Hospitals are listed under “H” in all telephone directories
and indicated with “H” on maps.
Most medicines are obtainable at pharmacies, and emergency pharmacies
are open at night. Visitors are, however, advised to bring any
supplies of specialised medicines they may need, with them. Should
visitors carry any prescription medicine on them, it would be
best to bring along a letter of authorisation from a doctor, since
some medicines might be mistaken for illegal drugs.
There is no national health scheme and visitors are advised to
take out medical travel insurance for the duration of their stay.
South Africa’s peak tourist seasons are between October
and February and again between March and April. Tourist accommodation
is in high demand during these seasons and visitors are advised
to book well in advance to avoid disappointment.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
Visitors are advised to take basic safety precautions, –
much the same as they would in other major cities around the world.
Contact the local tourist information centre for assistance.
The basic safety precautions are:
DO NOT walk alone at night, especially in unlit streets.
DO NOT draw unnecessary attention to money or jewellery on your
DO NOT be tempted into pavement games or gambling.
DO NOT buy gold, diamonds or other seemingly valuable items offered
for sale on the street - they are often stolen or fake.
DO NOT leave your property unattended in a public place.
DO NOT pick up hitchhikers.
DO NOT travel off the beaten track before informing someone and
DO NOT resist when confronted.
DO NOT accept lifts from strangers.
DO NOT venture into the township areas unless you are part of
a tour group led by a reputable tour guide.
DO lock valuables in the hotel safe.
DO check your route before leaving the hotel.
DO lock your hotel door at all times, whether you are in the room
DO lock your car doors at all times and leave your windows closed.
DO listen to the advice of your host or hotel personnel.
DO park in well-lit areas when going out at night.
DO lock your personal items and luggage in the boot of the car.
DO contact the police immediately after a crime.
DO make use only of reputable taxi companies. -Ask the hotel for
DO check whom it is when someone knocks on your hotel door.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) can be contacted 24 hours
a day. Their vehicles are white and blue and their uniforms are
blue. The police emergency telephone number is 10111 and the Police
Crime Stop number is 08600 10 111. Larger cities have Tourist
Crime prevention measures
Government has declared war on crime and criminals to ensure a
safer and better South Africa for all. New measures instituted
by police have already began to show results and some crime statistics
are down from previous years.
Some of these measures are:
Community co-operation has been encouraged to facilitate early
detection and prevention of crime.
Specialist squads have been established to investigate specific
types of crimes and are receiving training from top international
Policemen are being deployed on horseback and bicycles to increase
Tourism agencies are involved in working groups with police to
investigate measures to keep tourists safe.
The private sector has become involved, e.g. by supplying car
guards for parking areas.
VAT (Value Added Tax) is currently set at 14% and is included
in the marked price of goods. Foreign visitors may claim refunds
on goods (with a total value exceeding R 250) that they take out
of the country. Note that only goods purchased from shops that
are authorised under the exportincentive scheme and that display
the VAT logo, qualify for the VAT refund. VAT can be claimed at
airports and harbours of departures and customs offices.
In order to claim the refund, visitors will need:
A foreign passport;
A VAT-refund control sheet, which can be obtained from international
airports, harbours, offices of the Receiver of Revenue, or the
offices of the VAT Refund Administration.
The items on which VAT is being reclaimed;
The original tax invoice, containing the following information:
The words “Tax Invoice”;
The amount of VAT charged or a statement that the VAT is included
in the price, a tax invoice number. The date of invoice of the
The seller’s VAT registration number. The cost of goods
in Rands. The seller’s name and address, a description of
the goods bought, and the name of the buyer. Goods consumed or
services made use of in South Africa do not qualify for a tax
refund. VAT Refund Administration offices or Custom Offices are
situated at Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg International Airports,
as well as at Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London
Harbours and the Beit Bridge Border Post (Zimbabwe). Refunds are
issued by a VAT refund cheque that can be exchanged for foreign
currency before leaving the country or that can be deposited in
the visitor’s personal bank account.
South Africa has a sophisticated telecommunications network. The
telephone system is the best developed and has the highest capacity
in Africa. Except in remote rural districts, direct dialling connects
all centres. Cheaper telephone rates have been instituted from
Monday to Friday, 20:00 to 07:00 and Saturday 13:00 until Monday
The cellular network in South Africa is well developed and calls
can be received almost anywhere. Problems are experienced mostly
in the mountainous areas. Cellular phones are available for hire
from most cellular-phone outlets. When using a cellular phone,
the dialling code for each area has to be dialled before punching
in the telephone number.
The international dialling code for South Africa is +27 but from
within South Africa, the +27 should be replaced with 0. Dialling
codes should be used when dialling from one metropolitan or municipal
area to another.
Police emergency tel: 10111 (Flying Squad)
Police Crime Stop tel: 08600 10 111
Emergency and Crisis Services: 1022
Ambulance tel: 10117 (Provincial Ambulance service)
AA breakdown service: 082 16 111
Electronic Yellow Pages tel: 10118
Time tel: 1026
Trunk/Collect Calls tel: 0020
Phonograms tel: 1028
Teleconferencing tel: 0020
Domestic directory enquiries: 1023
International dialling and full telex, telefax and electronic
mail facilities are widely available, e.g. at hotels and Postnet
Pay phones can be found in most public places, some operating
with phone cards, others with coins. Phone cards can be bought
from shops that indicate that they sell these cards.
International Operator tel: 0009
International Directory tel: 0903
International direct dial: 09 + the country code.
South Africa is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT),
one hour ahead of Central European Winter Time, eight hours behind
Australian Eastern Standard Time and seven hours ahead of Eastern
Standard Winter Time, USA. There is no daylight saving. There
are no time-zone changes between South Africa and its neighbouring
countries, or between the nine provinces of South Africa.
Restaurants normally do not include the service charge in the
account and it is customary to include an extra amount of 10 to
14 percent as a tip for the waiter, depending on the quality of
the service. Some hotels keep a staff-box at reception where tips
for the staff can be left; otherwise tips may be given to individual
staff members personally.
South Africa has three international airports: Johannesburg International
Airport, Durban International Airport and Cape Town International
Airport. Of these three, Johannesburg is the largest and most
popular. All three have duty-free facilities and bus links with
the city centre and the major hotels. Their facilities also include
taxi ranks, restaurants, car rental offices, tourist information
desks and hotel booking desks. Apart from these, there are several
national and smaller airports and airfields. The national airline
(SAA) and the other smaller airlines combine to create an excellent
air network. Charter companies operate widely. Visitors will be
able to rent and pilot light aircraft’s if they can produce
a valid pilot’s licence.
South Africa has a well-developed rail infrastructure. However
travel by train is mostly not recommended for tourists because
the system is not geared for it and safety is a concern. Cape
Town is the only city with a suburban network but it is not considered
safe to use it after dark. There are, however, luxury rail companies
that offer the tourist high levels of comfort and safety, such
as Rovos Rail and the Blue Train. An aspect of rail travel that
is very popular with visitors is the luxury passenger trips and
shorter trips on scenic routes.
South Africa has an excellent road infrastructure. The traffic
is relatively light, except during peak hours, which sometimes
tempts drivers to speed. The accident rate is therefore high,
especially during peak holiday seasons. Pedestrians are also apt
to jaywalk, even on freeways, and drivers should be careful, especially
at night. Some rural roads are not in peak condition but road
signs will warn drivers of danger. Another danger on rural roads
is the presence of people and animals such as sheep and goats
and, in some areas, wild animals. Drivers need to be extremely
careful, especially in areas where rural communities are established.
Bus and coach
There are a few long-distance coach companies that provide transport
between cities but visitors need to book well in advance. Information
can generally be gained from the city railway station or the company
There are a few national car rental companies who have outlets
that are very conveniently placed, e.g. at airports. A car can
be collected from one outlet and dropped at another, for a premium.
Local firms offer a cheaper but more limited service. A large
variety of vehicles are available for rent but vehicle rental
in South Africa is relatively expensive.
South Africa does not have a well-developed public transport system.
All the cities have a municipal bus service, which runs according
to an established schedule, but only until a certain time of night.
The service is infrequent and even more limited over the weekends
and public holidays. Towns do not offer a municipal bus service.
There are mainly two types of taxis in South Africa. Metered taxis
are more expensive and to be found mainly in the cities although
some small towns may have a limited number. They cannot be hailed
from the street and must either be ordered by phone or at the
taxi ranks, which are scarce. Minibus taxis are the cheapest but
also the most uncomfortable. Violence connected with minibus taxis
and a relatively high accident rate make this the least preferable
mode of transport.
Tap water in South Africa, in major cities as well as in most
game reserves, is purified and 100 percent safe to drink. However,
bottled water is also available countrywide.
WEIGHTS & MEASURES
South Africa operates on the metric system.
Distances are measured in metres and kilometres (1 mile = 1, 621
Weight is measured in grams and kilograms.
Liquids are measured in litres.
Temperature is measured in degrees Celsius (10 ° C = 50 °
F; 20 ° C = 68 ° F; 30 ° C = 86 ° F)