One of the most culturally and geographically diverse places on earth, South Africa, fondly known by locals as the 'Rainbow Nation', boasts 11 official languages, and its inhabitants are influenced by a fascinating mix of cultures. Discover the gourmet restaurants, impressive art scene, vibrant nightlife, and beautiful beaches of Cape Town; enjoy a local braai (barbecue) in the Soweto township; browse the bustling Indian markets in Durban, or sample some of the world’s finest wines at the myriad wine estates dotting the Cape Winelands. Some historical attractions to explore include the Zululand battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, and Robben Island, just off the coast of Cape Town. Above all else, its untamed wilderness is astonishing: wildlife roams freely across massive unfenced game reserves such as the world-famous Kruger National Park.
ENTERING SOUTH AFRICA
You do NOT require a visa to enter South Africa if you are a citizen of -
· United Kingdom
· the majority of the EU countries (please check for exclusions)
If you are a citizen of another country, please check THIS LIST to determine if you need a visa before you enter.
Note that citizens of New Zealand now need a visa for South Africa
In all cases, ALL visitors are required to have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the intended departure date from South Africa. In all instances, ALL visitors must ensure there are TWO successive blank pages (unstamped) in their passport per country to be visited.
NOTE: Should you visit another Southern African country from South Africa, and then return to South Africa, you will require two new pages in your passport upon your return.
Foreign nationals who DO require a visa are advised to apply in person at relevant South African embassies/consulates of home residence at least four weeks prior to departure for South Africa. Visas are NOT issued at South African ports of entry, and airline officials are obliged to insist on visas before allowing passengers to board.
If you arrive without a visa, immigration officials WILL refuse you entry to South Africa and place you on a return flight to your home country.
Travelling with minors? NOTE: There are special requirements for minors traveling through South African ports of entry. As of 1st June 2015 it is required to bring an UNABRIDGED BIRTH CERTIFICATE of ANY child under the age of 18 to travel into South Africa. This law affects EVERY child travelling into the country, regardless of nationality.
Banking and Currency
CURRENCY - CREDIT CARDS & ATM’s
The currency in South African is the South African Rand (ZAR), which is made up of 100 Cents.
Visa and MasterCard are usually accepted throughout South Africa, American Express and Diners Club less so, and commonly NOT accepted at some venues at all. Be sure to ask your bank about a Visa or MasterCard with no foreign transaction fees!
Smaller vendors do not accept credit cards; please ensure you have adequate cash to cover purchases not able to be made on credit.
ATMs are common in all towns, cities and shopping malls as well as most petrol stations, and accept international cards. Be alert when using ATMs, and do not accept help from anyone as conmen are adept at switching cards.
Although not compulsory, if you are happy with the level of service provided, it is customary to tip guides, drivers, and support staff, and it is appropriate to do so in South African Rand (ZAR), or US Dollars (US$).
General Guidelines for Tipping
· Ranger/Field Guide: US$20 (±R260) per couple per day
· Tracker: US$11 (±R165) per couple per day
· Butler: US$15 (±R200) per couple per day
· Hotel/Camp/Lodge Staff: US$15 - US$20 (±R200 - ±R260) per couple per day
· Private Tour Guides: US$40 - US$60 (±R500 - ±R800) per couple per day
· Scheduled Tour Guide: US$20 (±R260) per couple per day
· Transfer Drivers: US$5 (±R65) per transfer
· Porters : US$1 (±R13) per bag, more if the bag is heavy
· Restaurants: 10-15% of the bill
· Luxury Train Travel (Rovos Rail & The Blue Train) –
Train Cabin Attendant: US$30 (±R390) per couple per journey
Waiter in Dining Car: US$24 (±R315) per couple per journey
Train Staff: US$20 - US$40 (±R260 - ±R500) per couple per night
Whilst it is not encouraged to carry enormous quantities of cash, be aware that facilities for exchanging or drawing cash are restricted to cities, towns and villages; there are NO ATMs in the wilderness/bush areas. Many camps do allow tipping by credit card.
NOTE: US dollars dated 2006 or earlier are NOT accepted
Travel, Transport and Getting Around
Travelling around South Africa is relatively easy by air, road and rail.
Several airlines operate domestic routes with regular links between Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, George, Nelspruit and Port Elizabeth and relatively frequent flights to several smaller towns and cities too.
An extensive tarred road system makes travelling in South Africa by vehicle convenient and easy. You will find gravel roads in rural areas though. Please note that a valid international driver's licence is required. We drive on the left-hand side of the road. Most global car hire firms have branches in South Africa and Uber is available.
Another means of getting around South Africa are inter-city bus services. Metrobus buses are available for in-city transport. Metered taxis must be ordered by telephone.There is the popular MyCityBus system in Cape Town as well as a hop-on-hop-off tourist bus in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
The rail system includes the long-haul, inexpensive Shosholoza Meyl Metrorail trains and some more luxurious options are available. There is also the Gautrain rapid transit railway system in Gauteng Province.
Health and Medical Information
VACCINATIONS & GENERAL HEALTH INFORMATION
Most of South Africa is malaria-free, but visitors travelling to the low-lying eastern parts of the country, are advised to take precautions, especially in summer between October and April. Malaria areas include Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga and northern KwaZulu-Natal. Malaria-free game areas/reserves include the Eastern Cape, Madikwe, Waterberg, Pilanesberg, Welgevonden and Tswalu. In the dry season from May to September, there is less mosquito activity. To obtain a prescription for anti-malaria medication, consult your medical doctor or health authority prior to departure. Currently, the most commonly prescribed anti-malarial tablet is Malarone.
Good medical services are readily available in urban areas of South Africa, but less so in wilderness regions; as a precautionary measure, vaccinations against diphtheria, rabies, meningococcal meningitis, tuberculosis, tetanus, typhoid, and hepatitis are sometimes recommended.
If you are travelling from a country with a risk of yellow fever, upon your arrival the government of South Africa requires proof of a yellow fever inoculation. Australia, Canada, USA, United Kingdom, and the EU, do NOT fall into this category, BUT, if you have travelled or transited through countries where yellow fever is apparent, you will be required to provide a Yellow Fever certificate. Endemic countries include Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. A full list of yellow fever risk countries may be viewed HERE. The yellow fever inoculation is valid for ten years, and must be administered no later than ten days prior to departure.
NOTE: should you fall into the yellow fever risk category, you are required to travel with your Yellow Fever certificate/card.
Bilharzia is present in some of the stagnant/slow-moving water tracts in remote areas of the country; as a precautionary measure, check with resident locals before swimming.
Tap water can be drunk in South Africa’s cities and major towns, however drinking tap water in rural areas isn't recommended. All hotels, safari camps and lodges supply fresh, clean (bottled or filtered) water. Do however always check with the camp/lodge staff if it is safe to brush your teeth with the tap water.
Pack your own basic medications for headaches, hay fever and dry skin as well as for any other minor afflictions, and/or travel-related maladies. Remember to pack sufficient supplies of chronic/prescription medication for the entire duration of your trip.
Although South Africa is overall a safe destination for international travellers, it is wise to take standard security precautions.
· Carry a record of your passport number, credit card numbers and airline tickets in a separate place.
· Do not be flashy with your money, expensive cameras, and/or jewellery.
· Keep your possessions in sight at all times.
· Use your hotel safe.
· Never leave baggage unattended, especially at airports, coffee shops and restaurants.
· Don’t walk in deserted areas, especially NOT AFTER DARK.
· Keep car doors locked, and don’t drive in deserted areas after dark.
Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice
Standards of hygiene in relation to food health and safety in South Africa, are generally high in hotels, restaurants, pubs and nightspots. Tap water in South Africa is safe to drink and cook with when taken from taps in urban areas. Not all tap water in rural areas is safe for consumption, so take precautions if necessary.
It is safe to eat fresh fruit, vegetables and salads, and put ice in your drinks. South Africa's fish, meat and chicken are of excellent quality, so there is no need to limit yourself when enjoying the local cuisine.
Restaurants are subject to South Africa's food safety control legislation, which is implemented by local government. Regulations include certification and regular inspections by health inspectors to ensure hygienic standards are maintained.
Street food is not as common in South Africa as it is in other countries, although vendors selling traditional snacks and meals can be found in city centres and townships. Food safety in such instances cannot always be guaranteed.
Climate and Weather
THE WEATHER in SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa’s climate is typical for the Southern Hemisphere, with the middle of winter being in June, July and August, and December, January and February being mid-summer
Winter in the Cape Town area (including Hermanus, the Winelands, and along the Garden Route), can be rainy, with intermittent stormy weather on the coast of the Western Cape. Snowfalls on the high-lying peaks of the province are not uncommon mid-winter, with the average midday temperature being around 18°C/64°F, but a colder average of 7°C/45°F in the mornings and evenings.
The Eastern Cape gets very cold, also with the possibility of light snow on the higher mountains.
Winter in the northerly areas of the country (around Johannesburg, the Kruger and Madikwe regions), is cool but dry. Early morning and night-time temperatures are cold and plummet to between 4°C/39°F and 7°C/45°F, but it is often sunny and clear during the day with temperatures reaching 16°C/61°F to 20°C/68°F.
In winter, it is warmest on the eastern coastline of the country abutting the Indian Ocean (Durban, and the KwaZulu Natal North coast), all the way up to the border with Mozambique. The lowest temperatures experienced here are around 18°C/64°F, although this does drop considerably as you move inland towards the Drakensberg Mountains.
In summer it is hot and often windy in Cape Town and surrounds, as well as along the Garden Route. Temperatures in summer reach 28°C/82°F to 29°C/84°F. As one travels inland to the Winelands and Karoo areas, away from the influence of the cool Atlantic Ocean breezes, it gets even hotter.
Summer in the north around Johannesburg, the Kruger National Park and Madikwe, is hot and humid with regular thundershowers; this is the rainy ‘green season’, with temperatures easily reaching 25°C/77°F or 26°C/79°F.
KwaZulu Natal is very hot with high humidity in the summer months, and occasional rain. Temperatures of 25°C/77°F and 26°C/79°F do seem higher because of the high moisture content in the air.
Clothing and Dress Recommendations
WHAT to PACK
Whilst muted colors are recommended for a safari holiday, there is no need to purchase serious safari gear for your visit to South Africa. It is quite acceptable to wear jeans with a neutral-coloured shirt, with the emphasis on comfort and ease.
· A good wide-brimmed sun hat – for the intense African sun
· A bandana – if going on safari, for the dusty, dry regions
· Comfortable sneakers, tennis shoes, or boat shoes - you do not require serious hiking boots for bush walks
· Sandals – flip-flops for around the camp/lodge, or for on the beach
· Golf shirts or T-shirts
· Long-sleeved cotton shirts - to provide protection from sun, as well as from mosquitos in the summer evenings
· Shorts or skirt - note that short skirts are not practical and not recommended for safaris
· A sport bra - for bumpy game drives
· A micro-fiber zippered jacket and light rain gear - for rainy summer months
· Bathing suit - whilst at all times respecting modesty of local custom
· One better dress, or trousers and shirt -if you plan on dining at some of the finer eateries in Cape Town/Johannesburg
· Warm fleece, anorak, scarf, gloves and beanie - for morning and evening game drives, for the winter months, and for higher altitudes, where it can be cool even in summer
· For Luxury Train Travel - more formal wear for the ladies, jacket and tie for the gents (ONLY for travellers on Rovos Rail or The Blue Train).
A Detailed List of the Most Practical Items to Pack
· Khaki, green, beige, neutral colours
· Shirts with long sleeves
· Shorts or light skirt (not too short)
· Jeans or safari trousers
· Wind-proof warm jacket
· Light sweater/jumper
· Lightweight water-proof jacket
· Swimwear and sarong
· Comfortable walking shoes
· Socks & underwear
· Personal toiletries
· Sun block, after-sun gel, moisturizer, lip salve/balm
· Strong insect repellent
· Hat and sunglasses
· Binoculars and camera equipment (dustproof bag for camera accessories)
Laundry can be done at most hotels, camps and lodges. At many of the camps and lodges, this service is complimentary, but there may be a nominal charge at some establishments. Depending on prevailing local traditions in the country, the staff at certain camps may not or will not wash underwear. It is totally acceptable to wear the same outfit more than once while on safari, there is no need to be a fashionista in the bush!
LUGGAGE SPECIFICATIONS & RESTRICTIONS
Many routings in South Africa are on smaller planes. Often your total luggage weight (INCLUDING carry-on hand luggage), may NOT exceed 20kg/44lbs.
In addition to these strict weight restrictions, and so that it can be packed into the hold of a small plane, your bags must be SOFT-sided with NO wheels or rigid frames.
This requirement varies depending on your flight schedule, please contact your consultant for further details.
Most accommodation offer Wifi (free or paid) in their business centres, rooms or restaurants. Internet cafes are found in most business areas and shopping malls. In addition, some South African restaurants offer WiFi access (free or paid).
There are also outlets such as PostNet that offer internet, fax and postage facilities.
Electricity and Plug Standards
POWER in SOUTH AFRICA
A large number of the safari camps and lodges in South Africa are situated in remote areas and generate their own electricity - either by solar power or by diesel generator. These power sources in turn charge banks of batteries known as an inverter system, which then provides 220Volt power in each tented room for lighting and ceiling fans.
Hairdryers & Electric Shavers
It is often not possible to use appliances such as hairdryers or electric shavers in tented rooms at the camps/lodges, as they have low-wattage fuses. You will however be able to charge your equipment in a designated area in the camp - either in your room, or in a central charging station in the common areas.
Most camps and lodges have adapters, but if you would like to purchase one prior to departure, the most commonly found plug/socket type in South Africa is the ‘M’