South Africa

When you plan on travelling to South Africa, there is some information you need to know.

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Visa information

Depending on where you’re coming from, you might not need a visa for your South Africa holiday at all. The South African Department of Home Affairs website has details on this, and details on how to get a visa to visit South Africa. Europeans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and Americans can visit South Africa for 90 days without a visa.

 

Capital cities 

South Africa has three capital cities:

  • Pretoria (executive capital);
  • Bloemfontein (judicial capital); and
  • Cape Town (legislative capital).
Want more trips for travelling in South Africa? 

Read Epic list of practical travel tips for South

Provinces

South Africa has 9 provinces, each with its own attractions. Here are some posts I have written about places and attractions in the different provinces.

1. Western Cape

 

2. Gauteng

3. Eastern Cape

4. Northern Cape

5. North-West

 

6. KwaZulu-Natal

I visited KwaZulu-Natal, but have yet to write a post about it.

7. Free State

I visited the Free State last year, but have yet to write a post about it.

8. Mpumalanga

Time to plan a trip!

9. Limpopo

Time to plan a trip!

 

Time Zone 

South African Standard Time (GMT+2)

Emergency numbers 

Call these numbers in emergencies:

  • 112 from a cellphone;
  • 10111 for the police; and
  • 10177 for an ambulance response. 

Best time to visit

Some things to consider when planning a trip to South Africa: 

  1. Johannesburg and the upper regions of the country gets rain in the Summer, while the Western Cape, where Cape Town is, gets Winter rain.
  2. South Africa has four distinctive seasons: Summer (December to March), Autumn (April to May), Winter (June to August), and Spring (September to November).
  3. The low season for tourism is from May to September. Everything is more expensive during the other months. 
  4. The main school holidays are in December, April and July. Avoid visiting South Africa during these months as there will be large crowds at all attractions and everything is more expensive. 
  5. If you want to visit South Africa to see wild animals, the best time is from May to August when it is dry and animals have to visit the waterholes. 

Getting around

Public transport in South Africa is almost non-existent. In Johannesburg and Pretoria, travellers can use the Gautrain, a train connecting the two cities with the O.R. Tambo International Airport.

Uber is popular for short distances in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban. For longer distances, it is always better to rent a car to explore the country. South Africans drive on the left and most of the rental cars are manual cars. 

To explore large distances, a road trip is the way to go. If you do a road trip, 
try the South African tradition of Padkos!

Travelling With Children 

If you are travelling with minors, it is best to bring an unabridged birth certificate with you to South Africa. This is no longer compulsory, but officials can request it. 

Language

South Africa has 11 official languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, SiSwati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu. Most people speak English. 

What to wear

The weather is moderate but can change quickly. Depending on the timing of your visit, it is best to wear layers as the days can be hot and the nights chilly. Make sure to always wear comfortable clothing.

 

Money issues

The South African Rand (ZAR) is the currency. 

It is the custom to tip 10% of a bill in restaurants and at petrol stations. 

Most shops accept credit cards, but keep some cash for smaller shops in smaller towns, for car guards and toll gates. .

Water

South Africa has water restrictions in some cities, such as Johannesburg and Cape Town. 

The tap water is safe to drink. Take a refillable bottle with you for water.

Take out medical travel insurance for South Africa

Don’t visit South Africa without medical travel insurance. The quality of care in state hospitals is not good and you wait really long for treatment. Private hospitals are comparable to medical care in first-world countries. World Nomads provides excellent travel insurance.

Plug sockets

The most common plug sockets are D, M and sometimes N plug sockets. 

Cellphone coverage

There is cellphone coverage in most of the country. Rural areas may not have a strong signal. 

Safety

There is a high level of crime. Avoid isolated areas, especially at night. Don’t show valuables, such as cellphones or jewellery, in public.

The size of South Africa

It is a big country and driving between destinations may take a long time. 

Airports

There are airports in Johannesburg (O R Tambo and Lanseria), George, Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Kimberley, East London, Upington and Bloemfontein. Smaller airports can be found in other locations, such as Wonderboom (Pretoria) and Plettenberg Bay.

All my South African posts

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