Our destination experts share South Africa travel advice for your tour of this vibrant nation.
South Africa has eleven official languages – English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Setswana, South Sotho, North Sotho, Tsonga, SiSwati, Venda and Ndebele. There is also a special slang language called “funigalore” – which is a mixture of many of the above-mentioned languages.
All leading credit cards are accepted in most hotels, shops, restaurants and airlines, but not at rural souvenir markets. Certain banks have recently imposed a limit on the use of debit cards abroad. Some debit cards can no longer be used for making purchases or drawing money in non-European countries. Others are limited by a very low daily limit. ATMs are easily found in every city and town, usually open 24/7. In remote areas, it will be difficult to find ATM machines that accept foreign cards.
It can be expensive to make calls in South Africa. The phone network is spread across most parts of South Africa and offers similar comfort to European networks. In rural areas, telephones can be few and far in between. To make calls in South Africa, we recommend you use of a telephone card. These can be purchased in telephone shops or in one of the many supermarkets, post offices, filling stations and at the airport, for ZAR 20-200. Booths for telephone cards are recognizable by their green color, pay phones by their blue color.
Mobile phones are easy to use and popular in South Africa. In the countryside, connection can occasionally be disrupted but coverage is usually no problem in major cities. Mobile networks are well equipped for mobile internet surfing, with often good internet speed. We advise the purchase of a prepaid card of a local provider if you want to make cheap calls within South Africa. A SIM card can be purchased for a few ZAR in many supermarkets or telephone shops. Charges are about ZAR 2-3 per minute. Please bring your passport and address of accommodation.
You can use Skype WIFI in WLAN hotspots to receive online access, and is billed per minute via Skype airtime. Most hotels have an automatic dial exchange in rooms. Remember to dial your country code and leave out the 0 of the area code, e.g. +44 20 1122334.
Most hotels and increasingly also safari lodges offer internet and/or WIFI services to guests (usually subject to a charge). Many airports, restaurants, cafés and shopping centers offer WIFI; e.g. the entire waterfront in Cape Town has free access. There is also WIFI in the subway. Internet cafés are found throughout the country and South Africa boasts an almost 100% GPS coverage. Broadband internet is slower than in Europe.
Taxis cannot be hailed in the street as they have designated stopping areas (usually in front of the major hotels) but they can be ordered by telephone. The major car rental companies are represented throughout most of South Africa. In line with stipulations as set out by car rental companies when renting a vehicle, you must, in addition to a fuel deposit also guarantee a stipulated amount in lieu of insurance with your credit card. The insurance included in the rental only covers 90%. For this you will need a valid driving license.
Crime in South Africa, like in many other places in today’s world, can be a problem, but all you really need to do is take the usual sensible precautions and follow some basic safety rules.
South Africa requires a valid Yellow Fever vaccination certificate from all visitors over one year of age, who are arriving from any country with risk of yellow fever. This also applies to travelers on transit via Johannesburg irrespective of their duration of stay. Yellow fever vaccination must be obtained at least 10 days before your trip. If you are coming directly from Europe or the Middle East to East Africa and you do not pass through any country with risk of yellow fever, you do not require a Yellow Fever Vaccination.
Visitors should take the necessary Malaria prophylaxis if they are visiting Kruger National Park. For entry to Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe), Zambia, Botswana and Mozambique a malaria prophylactic, as prescribed by your doctor, is highly recommended.
Medical facilities in cities and larger towns are world-class, but you will find that clinics and hospitals in rural areas tend to deal with primary health need, and therefore do not offer the range of medical care that the large metropolitan hospitals do. Medical practitioners in government as well as in private hospitals in South Africa boast international standards of qualification and are deployed round the country, so help is never far away. You can also purchase medication in pharmacies, which can be found in shopping malls.
A sprawling nation, the climate in South Africa varies greatly between regions. In general, travel to South Africa is possible at any time of the year however, the best time to travel depends entirely on the region you plan to visit. Your travel consultant is happy to offer detailed South Africa travel advice on the best time to travel. You can also follow this link for more information on when to visit South Africa.Best time to travel to South Africa
South African wines are world class! We recommend the dry white wines such as: Buitenverwachting Blanc de Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc, Hamilton Russell Chardonnay, Thelema Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc. Some great reds are: Zandvliet Shiraz, Nederburg Cabernet Sauvignon, Meerlust Merlot, Beyerskloof Pinotage. We recommend all wine connoisseurs and lovers to purchase the John Platter Wine Guide on arrival as it classifies, rates and describes each South African wine in details.
Tipping is at your own discretion depending on your satisfaction with the services offered. Most safari lodges have a central tipping box where you can leave a tip. The tips are then equally divided among all the hotel staff, except for the guide who is tipped separately. Tips on safaris are usually higher than when you stay in a city or beach hotel.
You will be pleasantly surprised at the prices and good quality of the goods, thus enhancing the buying power of your own currency. South Africa is popular for woodcarvings, handmade articles, ostrich leather goods, paintings and pottery and a wide, diverse selection exists from area to area. Antiques such as furniture, copper and silverware – from the 18th and 19th centuries – are freely available throughout the country. South African wines and spirits, which are very well priced, are also popular. Clothing, shoes, jewelry and semi-precious stones are bargains in South Africa. Sports gear and safari-style clothing are also good buys.
Most animal and plant products are not allowed to be exported from South Africa according to the Washington Conservation Convention – i.e. leopard and other pelts, ivory, crocodile bags, snakeskin products, mounted butterflies, cacti, cicadas and orchids. Most shops are open from 8:30am – 7pm, Monday to Friday and from 8:30am – 3pm on Saturdays.
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