- General information about RSA
South African Republic is located at the southern tip of Africa continent; it is washed by the Atlantic Ocean on the west and the warm Indian Ocean on the east. The neighboring countries are Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. South Africa encompasses the independent mountain kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland. The highest country point is Njesuthi mountain (3,450 m).
Population: aprox 52 mln people
Total area is 1 219 090 sq.km (the 9-th largest in Africa and 25th –largest in the world).
Capitals: Pretoria, Bloemfontein and Cape Town
Ethnics groups: The Black Africans, The Whites (of Afrikaans and British ancestry), The Colored, The Indians and The Asians. South Africans are very friendly and hospitable to everybody despite race and religion.
Religion: The majority of South Africans are Christians – 80%, Catholics - 8,6%, Dutch reformed – 8,9%, Anglican – 4%, Muslims – 1,6%
Language: There are 11 official languages in SA. It is in Guinness World Records as the country with the largest number of official languages: English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu, Ndebele, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, Swati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga. South Africa used to be a British Colony so English is spoken everywhere you go.
Weather and when to go. South Africa is a year-round destination. The peak season is November – February which is summer time in South Africa. Winter months are June, July, August. It is worth paying attention to the seasons, which are the reverse of those in the northern hemisphere.
Ocean temperature near Cape Town in summer doesn’t differ from those in winter – about +15C-+18C. There is a strong wind in summer time so water in the Atlantic Ocean can be even lower - +10C.
Cape Town winter (June- August) is rainy but summer is hot. November –February are rainy season in Johannesburg and Durban. But the tourists are not turned off by the rains as the precipitation is very low (460 mm. per year). It rains only one or two days per week for a short period and there are only a few cool evenings. In winter time the temperature can reach as low as +10C, but in the afternoon temperature goes up to +25C.
There is no snow on the coastline. Only mountains of 1000m above the sea level can be covered with the snow. The high Drakensberg mountains offer skiing opportunities in winter time.
Cape Point (Cape Town area) is known for its winds. The wind is warm but very strong, so it is advisable to have a sunscreen and light jacket even during the summer season (November –February).
Rainy season is particularly spectacular in South Africa: plants are green and in blossom. September is blossom time and you can find a Queen Protea – a national symbol of SA. On the Garden Route the rainfall is all year around which makes an Indian coastline in blossom any season.
Please check the weather before your trip.
Money and currency exchange. South Africa’s currency is the rand (R), which is divided into 100 cents. In Cape Town currency exchange can be provide at the banks of V&A Waterfront tourist center, exchange office at the International airport and at major shopping centers (bureau de exchange offices). You must present your passport. Commission of about 2% of the exchanged amount is charged. You can pay by credit card in any shops. But only cash is accepted at the local markets where you can purchase African hand crafted goods. There are ATM's in all cities in South Africa, so getting cash is easy. Visa and MasterCards are accepted by hotels and guest houses.
South African standard Time: There are no time zone differences within the country. SA standard time is two hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time (UTC/GMT +2 hours), Time difference between Cape Town and Moscow is 2 hours (Cape Town is behind); Between Cape Town and Kiev – 1 hour (Cape town is behind). No time difference in winter time.
Reservation. Tourism is one of the most developed industries in SA. To avoid disappointment, we advise to make hotel reservation in advance.
Tipping/gratuities. Are not included in the bills/checks. Tips are 10%. Tips for porters (at the airport and in the hotels) is 1$ or 10 R (ZAR) per bag.
Flights from CIS to SAR are operated by Airlines: Emirates, KLM, British Airways, Lufthansa, Qatar, Turkish Airlines, Etihad Airlines.
Domestic flights in South Africa are operated by : South African Airways, Air Link, Kulula, 1Time
Self-drive. South Africans drive on the left side of the road. The roads are in good conditions, but the distance between the cities is quite long. Please make sure you have enough fuel and your driver has a good rest before the long trip.
During the peak season (November – February) book a car in advance .
Petrol stations are called garages. They accept cash only; credit cards or checks are not accepted.
Park your car in a special designated areas. Open parking is served by parking attendant; undercover parking is more secure and well-guarded.
Public transport. In SA public transport is limited and not efficient. There are minibus taxis and busses which serve the general population in the cities. The only option for tourists is official metered taxis (TAXI) with yellow sign on the top.
Working hours and days off. Work week: Monday – Friday. Days off: Saturday and Sunday.
Banks and shops are opened till 5 p.m., on Saturday till 2 p.m. They are closed on Sundays.
Major Shopping centers (V&A Waterfront and Canal Walk) are opened till 9 p.m. and on weekends as well. During the holidays the work hours are shorter.
South Africa has 12 public holidays. Whenever any public holiday falls on a Sunday, the Monday following on it shall be a public holiday
1 January – New Year’s Day 9 August – National Women’s Day
21 March – Human Rights Day 24 September – Heritage Day
April – Good Friday and Easter Monday 16 December – Day of Reconciliation
27 April – Freedom Day 25 December – Christmas Day
1 May – Worker’s Day 26 December – Goodwill Day
16 June – Youth Day
Communication. Cell phones providers in SA support GPS system, so you can arrange international roaming before you leave your country. Upon arrival to the airport you can purchase "pay-as-you-go" cell phone starter pack which will be activated during 24 hours.
To make a call within South Africa dial 27 - followed by city code - dial number.
Electricity. 220 Volts. Three-pin round plugs are in use so take an adapter. In some hotels adapters are built-in in the bathrooms or desks. If not, ask the hotel stuff to give one to you.
VAT. In SA 14% VAT is included into the goods’ price and services (indicated in the receipt). As a visitor you have right to claim VAT refund (14%) of the purchased goods (services rendered in the country do not qualify for VAT refunds).
Minimum amount to be claimed is 250R (ZAR). You can get tax refund at the airport before departure on your international flight. Please have original receipt, your tickets, passport and goods (must be presented for inspection).
Health and insurance. South Africa has highly developed medical infrastructure. Private and public medical clinics are throughout the country. Private clinics provide excellent services and have modern equipment therefore the medical services are expensive. Public clinics are not well subsidized but the specialists are well-trained and have plenty of experience. Nevertheless tourists must have an insurance to cover part of private clinic expenses.
Malaria risk areas. Cape Town and most part of SAR is malaria free and there is no need for vaccination to enter the country. Malaria is endemic in Mpumalanga and Limpopo province; in KwaZulu-Natal malaria is endemic on the Maputuland coast. It is necessary to take anti-malaria drugs or get vaccination if visiting these areas. Consult your doctor or pharmacist before the trip.
Safety. It is necessary to take safety measures in South Africa as in any other country. Do not walk by night with bad visibility places. Do not leave your valuables (bags, cameras, camcorders, etc) in open sight in your car. If you travel as a part of tourist’s group do not separate from it. Always carry business cards of your hotel and your tour guide.
All the hotels in the country are equipped with safes. Keep your valuables in a hotel safe.
What to take to SA. Any time of the year make sure you bring sunscreen. Long stay in the sun without a hat and sunscreen can be harmful for your health especially during the first days on the beach.
Warm clothes will be necessary only in the regions of cold African winter. During summer a light jacket is enough for evening walks.
You can bring cash, credit cards or American Express checks.
Emergency telephone numbers
Western Cape Tourism Information and Safety Call Line: +27(0)831232345
Customer care center: +27(0) 800007081