SOUTH AFRICA TRAVEL INFORMATION GUIDE[divider_advanced color=”rgba(68,68,68,1)” thickness=”3″]
South Africa has the world’s richest floral kingdom, which produces brief but bright and colourful flowering season. You can enjoy the flowering season in the spring months of August and September, when specialist flower viewing trips are run and almost every small town has a flower show.
As well as a vast variety of endemic and migratory birds, South Africa is also home to one-sixth of the world’s marine species along its 2954 km of coast.
Most visitors to South Africa go in hope of seeing the infamous Big 5 – which consists of Lion, Buffalo, Leopard, Elephant and Rhino – in their natural habitat, you can consider yourself very lucky if you see 3 or 4 of these and it is very rare to see all 5 in a single visit to one of the many game reserves in area, but it is possible at the nearby Addo Elephant National Park.[toggle title=”A Few Facts About South Africa”] South Africa has more species of wild animals than Europe and Asia put together.
- The world’s largest land mammal – the African elephant
- The world’s smallest mammal – a shrew the size of a human fingertip
- The world’s tallest mammal – the giraffe
- The world’s fastest mammal – the cheetah
- The world’s heaviest reptile – the leatherback turtle
- The world’s largest antelope – the eland
- The world’s largest bird – the ostrich
- The world’s heaviest flying bird – the Kori Bustard
- 900 species of birds -10% of the world’s variety on 1% of its land area
- 6000 different spiders
- 175 varieties of scorpion
- 100 different snakes
Ambulance & Fire Emergency – 10177
National Sea Rescue Institute – +27 21 434 4011
AIDS Helpline – 0800 012 322
Emergency Contraception Hotline – 0800 246 432
Flight Information Hotline – 086 72 77 888
LifeLine Counselling Line – 0861 322 322
Malaria Hotline – +27 82 234 1800
Medic-Alert Emergency Medical Information – +27 84 194 4444 or +27 21 461 0000
Netcare911 – 092 911
Poison Hotline – +27 21 931 6129
Snake/Scorpion/Spider Bite Hotline – +27 21 931 6129
Baz Bus – +27 21 439 2323
Local Telephone Directory Assistance – 1023
International Telephone Directory Assistance – 903
Tourist Information Hotline – +27 83 123 6789
[/toggle] [toggle title=”South Africa 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 (+2) Greenwich Mean (or Universal Standard) Time, (+1) Central European Winter Time, and (+7) USA’s Eastern Standard Winter Time.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”South Africa Banking”] The banks are open from 9am to 3.30pm (Monday – Friday), and 8.30am to 11am on Saturdays. All major credit cards can be used in South Africa, with American Express and Diners Club enjoying less universal acceptance. In some small towns, you may find you’ll need to use cash. You can’t purchase fuel with a credit card. You can pay road tolls with MasterCard or Visa.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”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). 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.
Value-added-tax (VAT) is charged on most items. Foreign visitors to South Africa can have their 14% VAT refunded (value of purchases exceed R250.00). VAT is refunded at the point of departure provided receipts are produced.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”South Africa Languages”] There are 11 officially recognised languages, most of which are indigenous to South Africa. English is spoken everywhere you go. English is the language of the cities, of commerce and banking, of government and official documents. All our road signs and official forms are in English and service staff will speak English.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”Climate & Weather”] South Africa enjoys a temperate and pleasant climate, with warm sunny days most of the year. The seasons of the southern hemisphere are opposite to those in the northern hemisphere so our Summer runs from November to February, when most of the country is characterised by warm to hot weather.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”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 2pm, regardless of whether there is cloud cover or not.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”The Seasons”] Summer – mid-October to mid-February
Autumn – February to April
Winter – May to July
Spring – August to October
[/toggle] [toggle title=”Medical Health”] South Africa has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world so please take precautions if you are planning to have sex. Condoms are readily available and many establishments provide these free of charge. For more information, service, alerts and advice, check out SAA Netcare Travel Clinics
[/toggle] [toggle title=”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.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”The Water”]High-quality tap 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 settlements, is both palatable and safe to drink straight from the tap.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”Malaria”] The Eastern Cape is a malaria free region.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”South Africa Public Holidays”]New Year’s Day – 1 January
Human Rights Day – 21 March
Good Friday (the Friday before Easter Sunday)
Family Day (the Monday after Easter Sunday)
Freedom Day – 27 April
Workers Day – 1 May
Youth Day – 16 June
Women’s Day – 9 August
Heritage Day – 24 September
Day of Reconciliation – 16 December (traditionally the start of South Africa summer vacations)
Christmas Day – 25 December
Day of Goodwill – 26 December
If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, the Monday following becomes a public holiday.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”South Africa Visa’s”] For the majority of foreign backpackers who travel to South Africa entry is straightforward and hassle-free. All visitors to South Africa must be in possession of a valid passport in order to enter the country and in some cases, a visa. The Department of Home Affairs’ website will give you the lowdown on visa costs, processing time, where to apply, visa requirements (what to submit), requirements for people in transit, duration and purpose of stay, medical visas and photographs.
Services to foreigners
General visa information
Supplemental visa information
Visa application form