South Africa offers a wide variety of accommodation, from hotels and B&Bs to camps and caravan parks. Many are graded according to a one to five star system. Tariffs range from R100 — R4,500 per day according to the grade, location and style of establishment. Accommodation is generally difficult to find at the coast in the summer holiday months (Dec/Jan), at Easter and in mid June-July.
Suites, Chalets, Resorts and Other Self-catering Getaways, published by the Automobile Association; Portfolio The Country Places and Safari Collection SA Travel Guide in print, and online at http://www.portfoliocollection.com
South Africa’s main airport, Johannesburg International, is 30 kms from the city centre and 60 kms from Pretoria. Buses to the South African Airways terminal, in Braamfontein (near the railway station) run every 30 minutes and less frequently to and from Pretoria. Metered taxis are also available. Other airports at Cape Town, Durban, Nelspruit and Polokwane are also classed as international. Bus and taxi services are available. An airport departure tax of R110 is usually included in the ticket price.
South African Airways, the national carrier, and other smaller airlines offer numerous flights linking SA’s major cities each day. SAA Tel: 011 978 1000
Most major commercial banks offer foreign exchange services and automatic teller machines (ATMs), and are open from 09:00 to 15:30 on weekdays and 08:30 to 11:00 on Saturdays. Several international banks have offices in the main cities.
South Africa’s many beaches are beautiful, and swimming is exceptionally safe and hygienic. Tests conducted by the CSIR show that the seawater is among the cleanest in the world. Twenty-seven SA beaches enjoy international Blue Flag status. Shark nets protect several KwaZulu-Natal beaches.
Best time to go
On the Highveld, there is sunshine all the year around. Summers are hot and thundery; winters bright, dry and cold. At the Cape, the summers and early autumn months from October to May are best; some winter months can be wet and chilly. In KwaZulu-Natal, summers are hot, thundery and humid at sea level. June/July is a good time to visit Durban and the coast. June-August are the best months for game viewing throughout South Africa.
Motorists who wish to travel from South Africa to neighbouring African countries should contact the Department of Home Affairs for details of the opening and closing times of border posts. Tel: 012 314 8911
Luxury coaches link the major centres, while travel companies offer a variety of tours around the country in comfortable buses. Greyhound Tel: 011 276 8500 Translux Tel: 011 774 3333
This computerised booking service has over 300 branches in South Africa, catering for more than 40,000 events countrywide. For information call 083 909 0909
Conversions — distances and temperatures
Distances throughout South Africa are given in kilometres. One mile is equivalent to 1.621 kilometres. Temperatures are given in degrees Celsius (also known as Centigrade). Ten degrees Celsius is equivalent to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, 20°C = 68°F, 30°C = 86°F.
Most international credit cards such as MasterCard, Visa, Diners Club, American Express and their affiliates are accepted. However, use may be restricted in small towns and country areas and in some retail shops. Automatic teller machines (ATMs) are situated outside most banks in towns and cities, and dispense cash 24 hours a day. Petrol (gasoline) must be paid for with a special garage card or cash. Be careful around isolated ATMs.
The currency unit is the Rand, denoted by the symbol R. R1 = 100 cents.
Personal effects are allowed into the country duty-free. Visitors are also entitled to bring in goods worth R1250.
Duty is levied at 20% thereafter. One may not bring in or carry out South African banknotes above the value of R5000.
South Africa’s roads are good and well signposted, so travelling by car is a fine way to see the country. Driving standards vary widely and it is wise to drive defensively at all times. Drivers must have a valid driving licence (which carries a photograph and is printed or authenticated in English) or an international driving permit. South Africans drive on the left. The speed limit is 120 km/h (75 mph) on motorways; 100 km/h (60 mph) on main roads and 60 km/h (35 mph) in built-up areas.
Do not stop for hitchhikers and don’t leave valuables in parked vehicles.
Car hire companies have depots at airports and, in the cities
- National Alamo 0800 011 323
- Avis: Tel: 0861 021 111
- Imperial: Tel: 0861 131 000
- Budget: Tel: 0861 016 622
- Tempest: Tel: 0860 031 666
- Hertz: Tel: 0861 600 136
- Europcar: Tel: 0800 011 344
Current is 220/240 volts at 50 cycles per second. Adaptor plugs should be brought for razors and hair dryers.
In dire need, dial 10111 for the Flying Squad and 10177 for an ambulance.
Visitors need a passport valid for six months beyond the date of departure from SA. Visitors are given an entry stamp valid for 90 days if they have an onward ticket and show they can support themselves during their stay. Holders of visitor’s visas are not allowed to take up employment. Visa enquiries Tel: 012 314 8911/324 1860.
The dress code for South Africa is casual, except in some restaurants and clubs that require more formal attire. Topless swimming and sunbathing is not allowed, though the rules are disregarded on some beaches. Alcohol may not be drunk on beaches or in public places and 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 aids may be hired in most cities. The larger car-hire companies can provide vehicles with hand controls. A directory of services for the visually handicapped is available from: The SA National Council for the Blind Tel: 012 346-1190; The National Council for the Physically Disabled Tel: 011 726 8040.
Angling is one of South Africa’s most popular pastimes. Many game and nature reserves have dams or rivers — or even a stretch of coastline — where fishing is encouraged. There are about 250 species of freshwater fish in southern Africa, and some 1,500 seawater species along its coastline.
South Africa’s excellent climate makes golf a year-round attraction. There are over 300 registered courses to choose from and many are outstanding. Visitors are welcome at most courses, but it is advisable to call the club secretary and ask for a confirmed starting time and dress codes. Brochures and books on South Africa’s courses are available in local bookstores.
Health and medical care
Vaccinations for cholera and smallpox are not required, but travellers from a yellow fever zone must have a valid certificate. Medical treatment and hospital fees must be paid direct. Special travel insurance is recommended. Most hotels have a list of doctors, whose names may also be found in the medical section of telephone directories.
Visitors to many game parks are advised to take anti-malaria tablets, which are available across the counter at any pharmacy (drugstore). Malaria regions include Limpopo, Mpumalanga and northeastern KwaZulu-Natal. It is important to consult a pharmacist for advice on the best drug or drug combination to take. In a malaria region, avoid wearing perfume or after-shave lotion, and wear long sleeves and trousers at night.
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 therefore avoid contact with the water in these regions. The Eastern Cape, like most of the country, is bilharzia-free.
Nearly half of Africa’s one thousand museums are situated in South Africa. They range from museums of geology, natural history, archaeology, history and art to those of mining and agriculture. The oldest is the South African Museum in Cape Town, noted for its collection of Bushmen rock art and natural history exhibits. The Transvaal Museum in Pretoria, famous for its skull of Master Ples, depicts the development of life in southern Africa. North of Johannesburg are the famous Sterkfontein Caves, where a 3.5 million year old skeleton was discovered in 1998. At the Big Hole in Kimberley, visitors can view the largest excavation ever made with pick and shovel.
Most denominations are represented. Churches, mosques, temples and synagogues are located in most major cities. Consult your hotel reception desk.
Crime is prevalent in the big cities and in many coastal towns. Don’t walk in deserted areas or alone at night and don’t carry large sums of money or expensive cameras in city centres. Use the hotel safe deposit box for valuables. Police advise visitors to take elementary precautions for their own safety.
Some dos and don’ts:
- Always consult your host/guide/hotel keeper before going exploring. Travel in company.
- Don’t walk alone after dark in dubious areas
- Don’t wear jewellery or flaunt expensive cameras and high-tech equipment while sightseeing.
- Be on the alert for petty thieves and pickpockets in busy places.
- Drive with car windows closed and doors locked. You are at your most vulnerable at traffic lights and in driveways.
- If confronted by an armed assailant, don’t try to be a hero.
- Remember that the vast majority of South Africans are well disposed and friendly, and will be happy to help you.
Local manufacturers set a high premium on workmanship and many prices are cheap in international terms. Shopping hours are generally 08:00 to 17:00 on weekdays, and 08:00 to 13:00 on Saturdays. Many shops in the bigger cities are open all-day Saturdays and on Sundays.
The South African sun is strong, with a high ultraviolet rating. Screening products with sun protection factors of 15 and over are recommended.
Telephone for a taxi or go to a taxi rank, as local taxis don’t cruise. If the taxi does not have a meter, negotiate the fare in advance. Beware of sharp operators. Visitors should be aware that cab services do not always conform to international standards. Hire cars are a ready alternative.
A direct dialling service connects all centres, except for some villages in the more remote rural districts. The international telephone service links South Africa with countries around the world. International dialling codes are to be found in all SA telephone directories. Calls from hotels generally carry a surcharge. The international dialling code for South Africa is +27 followed by the area code (minus the first zero) and the subscriber’s number. Telephone cards can be used at green public telephones and are obtainable at post offices, airports and branches of CNA in denominations of R10. Cellular (mobile) phones are widely used and can be hired on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
(national and international)
Collect calls (national)
Throughout the year, Standard Time in South Africa is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, one hour ahead of Central European Time, and seven hours in advance of Eastern Standard Time in the US.
In restaurants, 10% of the bill usually applies. Restaurants do not usually include the tip in the bill. Taxi drivers should also receive 10% of the amount charged. R2.00 per bag is generally given to porters.
Good trains, with first and second class sleeping accommodation, link South Africa’s major cities. The internationally famous five-star Blue Train runs between Pretoria and Cape Town, with a stop-over in Johannesburg.
For train reservations contact Spoornet Main Line Passenger Services, Tel: (011) 773 3994; for Blue Train reservations, Tel (011) 773 7631; Rovos Rail Tel: (012) 323-6052
VAT (Value added tax)
Currently set at 14%, VAT is included in the price of almost all goods and services. Foreign visitors are not exempt from paying VAT on purchased goods. They may, however, claim back VAT paid on items taken out of the country when the total value exceeds R250. The refund may be claimed at the airport of departure, at seaports and at customs offices. The following documentation is required: original tax invoice, VAT refund control sheet and foreign passport. The items on which a refund is claimed must also be presented.
For more information contact the VAT Refund Administrators: Tel: 011 484 7530 or write to PO Box 9478, 2000 Johannesburg.
Information leaflets on the procedure to follow are available from VAT Refund Administration offices at Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town International airports.
Visas (see under Entry).
Tap water is quite safe to drink throughout South Africa.
South Africa’s wildlife can be seen in its natural habitat in various game parks and reserves. Conducted game trails are offered by most parks.
- SA National Parks Tel: 012 428 9111
- KwaZulu-Natal Parks Board Tel: 033 845 1000
- Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa Tel: 011 462 5663
Wining and dining
South Africa is acclaimed for its top quality fresh produce and culinary excellence. In the main cities there are outstanding restaurants featuring French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Greek, Mexican, Eastern, Cape Malay and many other types of cuisine. The country is also internationally renowned for its fine wines. Most unlicensed restaurants invite patrons to bring their own wine. Restaurant guides are available from publicity associations in major cities.
011 436 0116
Johannesburg Int Airport
011 921 6911/6262
Lost Property: JIA
011 921 6264