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Travel Tips – South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA STANDARD TIME

South Africa operates two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time throughout the year, making it an hour ahead of Central European Winter Time, seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Winter Time and seven hours behind Australian Central Time.

CONVERSIONS: DISTANCE AND TEMPERATURE

Distances throughout South Africa are given in kilometres.
1 mile = 1.62 kilometres
Temperature is given in degrees Celsius.

CURRENCY AND FOREIGN EXCHANGE

The South African currency is the Rand
Click here to view an up-to-date currency converter

Foreign currency can be exchanged at most commercial banks and Bureaux de Change are widely available.

Typical banking hours:
Monday - Friday: 09h00 - 15h30
Saturdays: 08h30 - 11h00
ATMs are widely available.

ELECTRICITY

The electricity supply is 220-240 volts, 50 Hz. The connection for appliances is a round three-pin plug. The wall plugs are not comparable with Europe, the USA or the East; special adapters are available in most airport duty free shops

EMERGENCIES

You can dial 10111 for the Flying Squad (special police services) and 10177 for an ambulance.

Although incidents of crime against tourists happen rarely in South Africa, tourists should still be aware of the basic emergency procedures to follow should anything happen. It recommended that you:

  • Go to the nearest safe and public place
  • Call the Police Emergency Number (10111) which is free from a phone box or landline, and briefly explain what happened
  • If you are using a mobile phone, call 112 and your call will be transferred to the appropriate emergency service
  • If you have been injured, the call centre will dispatch an ambulance to take you to the nearest hospital. Alternatively, you can call the National Ambulance Service (10177)

ETIQUETTE

The dress code across South Africa is mainly casual and smart casual, except in some restaurants and clubs that require more formal attire. Smoking is banned in public buildings and on planes, buses and trains.

FACILITIES FOR THE DISABLED

South African Airways provides passenger aid units at all major airports. Many hotels offer facilities for the disabled, as do most rest camps in the Kruger National Park. Wheelchairs and other aides are available for hire in most cities. The larger rental car agencies can provide vehicles with hand controls.

HEALTH AND IMMUNISATION to HEALTH AND INOCULATIONS

A yellow fever inoculation certificate is required for entry into South Africa if you have travelled from or through a yellow fever zone. You cannot get an inoculation upon arrival and your inoculation certificate must be dated at least ten days prior to your arrival in South Africa. More information can be found on the website of the Western Cape Provincial Government here or the website of the US Department of State here.

Malaria is endemic in some parts of Mpumalanga, Northern Province, and KwaZulu-Natal and it is essential to take precautions if you intend to visit these areas. The bilharzia parasite is present in streams, rivers, lakes and dams in some of the northern and eastern parts of the country, and visitors should avoid contact with the water in these regions. There is no immunisation against bilharzia.

LANGUAGE

South Africa has 11 official languages and English is spoken throughout the country. French, German and Italian are also spoken at many larger hotels and popular tourist destinations around South Africa.

MEDICAL SERVICES

Emergency care is excellent and widely available in South Africa with world-class medical specialists, international prescriptions drugs, cutting-edge technological facilities and safe blood supply. South Africa has no national health scheme, so it is advisable to purchase travel insurance that will cover medical expenses during the period of your stay.

MEDICATION

Should you require regular medication, note down the generic (official) name. This is consistent internationally, whereas the brand (marketing) name can vary between countries. Indicate you usual strength and dose. A doctor's letter and prescription should ensure you have no problems at customs. Determine prior to departure if your medication is readily accessible at your destination (over-the-counter vs. prescription). Carry all-important medication in your cabin luggage to avoid problems should your luggage be lost or delayed en route.

PASSPORTS AND VISAS

All visitors to South Africa require a valid passport with at least two fully blank visa pages upon arrival in South Africa. Travellers without the requisite blank visa pages in their passports may be refused entry into South Africa, fined, and returned to their point of origin at their own expense.

Many visitors to South Africa require a visa in order to enter the country. You cannot apply for a visa upon arrival. If you will require a visa to visit South Africa, be sure to allow plenty of time for the application process before your departure date.

Details on how to apply for a South African visa can be found on the website of the South African Department of Home Affairs here.

If you need to visit a South African consulate in your home country in order to apply for a visa, a list of consulates around the world can be found on the website of the South African Department of Foreign Affairs here.

Please also note that a yellow fever inoculation certificate is required for entry into South Africa if you have travelled from or through a yellow fever zone. You cannot get an inoculation upon arrival and your inoculation certificate must be dated at least ten days prior to your arrival in South Africa. More information can be found on the website of the Western Cape Provincial Government here. or the website of the US Department of State here.

PETROL (GASOLINE) FILLING STATIONS

Filling stations are conveniently situated throughout the country. Unleaded petrol is available. Most filling stations in major cities are open 24 hours a day. Few South African filling stations will not accept credit cards so be sure to have enough cash available for filling up.

RULES OF THE ROAD

An excellent road network links the largest metropolitan areas with even the smallest villages. South Africa drives on the LEFT. The speed limit in urban areas is usually 60 km per hour; on rural roads 100 km per hour and on freeways 120 km per hour unless otherwise indicated. Wearing a seatbelt is compulsory; driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offence; and traffic laws are strictly enforced.

South Africa has many private taxis available for shorter distances. Public transport such as trains and buses are often not reliable and it is better to rent a vehicle from a reputable car-hire company if you wish to travel long distances.

Valid driver's licenses from visitors' home countries are acceptable provided that they are in English and include the driver's photograph. If your driver's license does not comply with these requirements, you should obtain an International Driving Permit before your departure to South Africa

SAFETY AND SECURITY

Your safety and well-being are of utmost importance to South Africans, but, as always, travellers should take a few basic precautions to ensure a safe and pleasant visit:

  • Never leave personal property unattended
  • Store valuables in your hotel′s safety deposit box
  • Keep your hotel room locked
  • Use reliable taxi services
  • Avoid displaying expensive jewellery and cameras
  • Do not carry large sums of money on your person
  • Stay away from dark, isolated areas
  • When travelling by car, plan your route in advance
  • Keep car doors locked and windows closed, and stay aware when stopped at a stoplight
  • When parked or driving, place valuables out of sight in the boot (trunk)
  • Never give strangers a lift

SHOPPING

Local manufacturers set a high premium on workmanship, and with a favourable exchange rate, visitors can afford to indulge.

Shopping hours in the bigger cities are generally 08h00 to 17h00 on weekdays, 08h00 to 13h00 on Saturdays, and some shops outside of malls are still closed on Sundays. Malls are generally open until 17h00 on Saturday and Sunday.

SUN PROTECTION

The South African sun is strong, with a high ultraviolet rating. Sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 20 or higher is recommended at all times, as well as a hat.

TELEPHONES

South Africa telephone dialing codes:
International: +27–21–
National: 021–
National Directory Enquiries: 1023
To call internationally out of South Africa, dial 00 and then the country code. Cell phones are widely available for hire, as are ’starter packs’ if your personal handset is compatible with the South African system.

TIPPING

It is customary to tip waiters, wine stewards, taxi drivers, porters, caddies and other service providers. Depending on the service, the amount should be around 10%-15% of the bill, R5 per suitcase or R20 per golf bag.

TRAVEL HEALTH INSURANCE

This is very important: take time to choose a suitable policy that provides adequate cover (including possible medical evacuation). Ensure that you understand what the policy covers and how it works (read the small print), as well as relevant contact details.

VAT (Value Added Tax)

Currently set at 14%, VAT is included in the marked/quoted price of most goods and services. Foreign visitors may claim back VAT paid on items to be taken out of the country when the total value exceeds ZAR 250.00. Information leaflets on the procedure to follow are available from VAT Refund Administration offices at the Johannesburg, South Africa and Durban International Airports, and at the V&A Waterfront in South Africa.

WATER

In the major cities and towns and at most game reserves, tap water is purified, tastes good and is 100% safe to drink.