Ultimate Guide to South Africa

South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. It is bounded on the south by 2,798 kilometres (1,739 mi) of coastline of Southern Africa stretching along the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans

South Africa offers a diverse experience for travelers with a variety of landscapes and cultures. There are nine official ethnic groups in South Africa. The largest communities include people with European, Asian and multiracial descent. Similar to most other African countries, South Africans are very proud of their country, friendly and welcoming.

Because of this large number of diverse ethnicities, there are 11 official languages spoken in the country. This is the highest official languages of any country in the world. There are also many different religions practiced throughout the country.

The current president of SA is in the person of His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa. South Africa holds three major capital cities including Cape Town, Pretoria, and Bloemfontein.


The widely accepted currency in South Africa is South African rand.  The currency code for Rand is ZAR, and the currency symbol is R. Check the currency rate here…  Click here

Current time: The Greenwich Mean Time (GMT +2) is South Africa’s standard time. SA does not operate daylight-saving time.The Greenwich Meridian crosses SA.

ATM: Enquiries in relation to if and where your ATM card is received in South Africa can be made from your bank or Credit Card Company even before arriving in SA. For instance, a foreign ATM card with a Cirrus or Maestro logo printed on it can be used at some recognized banks in South Africa. These banks has branches in the major cities in the country.

Nevertheless, a Visa card is required in case you want to use ATM machines from other banks in SA, if your ATM is not accepted in SA. Enquire in advance from your bank whether your Visa card has an ATM option that works abroad. ATMs from major bank in the country allows VISA ATMS.

Foreign currency in cash (Euros, USD, GBP) can be changed at exchange offices (‘Forex Bureaus’) and banks which usually operates from 8:30am to 4pm from Monday-Friday and 9am to 2pm on Saturdays.

  • Traveler cheques: It is recommended to use traveler cheques in SA because of restricted possibilities to cash them and often only small amounts can be cashed.
  • Credit card. Transactions at some hotels, malls, restaurants among others can be made with your credit card (Visa or MasterCard). However, be vigilant when using your card and keep an eye on it at all times to avoid illegal use of your card in situations such as internet purchases.

A visa is not required for US citizens visiting for less than 90 days. You will still need a valid passport and possibly proof of yellow fever immunization. If traveling from a country that has yellow fever, you must have proof of immunization.

If you are not a US citizen then a passport is required or travel document valid for no less than 30 days after the expiry of your intended visit. Your passport must have at least TWO unused page for entry / departure endorsements.

Requirements for entering South Africa
You will need the following if you wish to visit South Africa:

  • A valid and acceptable passport or travel document for your intended stay
  • At least one blank page in your passport for endorsements
  • A valid visa, if required
  • Sufficient funds to pay for your day-to-day expenses during your stay
  • A return or onward ticket
  • Yellow fever certificates if your journey starts or entails passing through the yellow fever belt of Africa or South America.

South Africa is a year-round destination due to its varying regional climates and wildlife opportunities. The Cape has beautiful hot, dry weather in its summer months between November and February, while the best time to visit for whale watching is between July and November.

The northern regions can be rainy from November to February, but this can be the best time to travel for birding, while the cooler winter months from May to September bring superb conditions for viewing big game.

Health: www.traveldoctor.co.uk (UK) or www.travelclinicsofamerica.com (USA) provides you with information about tropical diseases, malaria and immunizations.

Yes, some vaccines are recommended or required for South Africa. The CDC and WHO recommend the following vaccines for South Africa: typhoid, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, cholera, yellow fever, rabies, and influenza.

Many of the countries surrounding South Africa require proof of yellow fever vaccination for entry. Consult with a travel health specialist to learn if you will need the vaccine.  Malaria is present in some regions of South Africa. Use mosquito repellents, netting and antimalarials if you are traveling to these areas.

Security;  In order to keep your valuables from theft, it is necessary to lock your car doors in big cities and remember to stay on the main tourist paths.V&A waterfront is among places that are completely safe after dark but it will be needful to pick a taxi if your accommodation is not at the waterfront.

You can be offered a local mobile phone with restaurant & taxi numbers already entered, which is a nice touch by some B&B’s in Cape Town though you might perhaps not get that type of package in the big hotels. It is also advised not to walk around in non-tourist areas at night.

one of the newest crimes across the world is the duplication of ATM cards so be cautious at ATM machines to hide your pin number and look out for any interfering of machines.

Stay away from strikes and political demonstrations for they may often turn violent. Do not swim alone or at isolated beaches, for riptides can be sudden and dangerous. Be mindful of sharks.

With regards to its size, the climate of South Africa is different depending on the regions. The Southwestern corner of South Africa has a Mediterranean climate. The interior of South Africa has a temperate climate.The Northeastern part of South Africa has a subtropical climate.

A small part of the northwest has a desert climate. Although there is a range of different climates in South Africa, temperatures stay in the high-90’s in summer and low-30’s in winter. The majority of the country experiences warm days and cool nights. There is a rainy season from November to March.

In South Africa the standard voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. You can use your electric appliances in South Africa, if the standard voltage in your country is in between 220 – 240 V (as is in the UK, Europe, Australia and most of Asia and Africa).

Manufacturers take these small deviations into account. If the standard voltage in your country is in the range of 100 V – 127 V (as is in the US, Canada and most South American countries), you need a voltage converter in South Africa. You can find voltage converters at Amazon. You can also consider a combined power plug adapter/voltage converter.

There are eleven officially recognised languages spoken in South Africa: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.

Lower than 2% of South Africans speak a first language which is Afrikaans other than an official one. Most South Africans can speak more than one language.

It wouldn’t be necessary to purchase a new mobile phone in SA if you already have one. You can get an inexpensive South African prepaid sim cards from one of the networks which will be activated by registering with your passport and can be used in your own phone provided it is simlock-free.

However, poor or non-existent network coverage at some parts of the country such as beach or other remote places is inevitable. It’s possible to make relatively cheap calls in and outside SA with a local sim card.

Tipping: Due to the fact that the average South African worker lives on a very small wage, tips are really cherished. A tip or gratuity of 5-10% is most adequate if their service is good, and your needs are attended to quickly and professionally to enhance their salary.

Bargaining: Unlike shops, bars, restaurants and hotels, prices can be bargained for at the market, moreover in taxi’s and with roadside vendors. Though there are no clear guiding principle, it’s possible to negotiate 30% off the first stated price.

Drinking water: It is best to buy bottles of mineral water since the tap water in South Africa cannot fully be considered as safe for drinking considering the change of environment and your body needs to adjust.. There are a lot of mineral water brands obtainable in SA.

Taking pictures: It is advisable not to take pictures of people without their permission as it is not always welcomed. You are likely to pay and even more if you are a white person. Taking Photographs of government buildings as well as uniformed persons is outlawed.

To avoid causing traffic on major roads, keep small change for tolls. Similarly, if you need to use facilities like toilet, head for restaurants in towns etc. or use facilities at tourist sites etc. since “service stations” on back roads are not expected to have these facilities unless you are on a major road.

There are several speed cameras which often seem as simple tripod cameras to look out for. They are mostly set up under the shade of a tree along the road with a policeman nearby.

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