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SOUTH AFRICA

Population:

South Africa has an estimated 46 million people spread out over the 9 provinces. The federal government is based in Cape Town, Pretoria (today Tswane) is the administrative capital and Bloemfontein the juridical capital.

Bordered by two oceans – the Atlantic and the Indian, South Africa is a fascinating country whether one focuses on its history, the diversity of its inhabitants’ cultures, or the splendour of its landscape.

The first Dutch sailors set foot at the Cape of Good Hope in April 1652, a first step that would eventually lead to three and a half centuries of conflict and violence, shaping the destiny of the people of South Africa. From the British occupation to the reign of the Great Shaka of the Zulus, from the Great Trek to the Anglo-Boer wars, from the official onset of Apartheid to the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994, history has left its mark in the memories of South Africans.

Now, however, South Africa is a democratic country of about 40 million inhabitants, and 11 official languages – Afrikaans, English, Xhosa and Zulu being dominant. To describe their country, Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela use the expression «The Rainbow Nation».

With its 3000 kilometre-long coastline, its tropical beaches, mountain ranges, bush areas and deserts, South Africa is also a land of natural beauties. Numerous National Parks teeming with flora and big game allow for many an opportunity to go on memorable scenic- and game-drives. Each and every area boasts a typical flora and fauna. Among others, one might expect to spot lions, cheetahs, elephants, giraffes, eagles and ostriches, seals, penguins, whales and many more. South Africa is a paradise for nature lovers.

Info per region, click on the flag:

Electricity

The power net in South Africa works on 220V - 50Hz. Some hotels provide European two pin adaptors while others have international power point in a desk. It is advisable to buy an adaptor in any supermarket.

Climate:

South Africa is in the southern hemisphere, this means that the seasons are different than in the northern hemisphere. The winter months are June and July. Rain and even snow in the mountains around the Cape is common during winter while night temperature in the Karoo can drop way below zero. The weather in Augustus changes, rain is still possible but the temperatures are on the rise, nights are still cool. August and September are the true springtime months.

Heavy snowfall in the Drakensberg is normal during winter.

Day temperatures in the north (Limpopo, Mpumalanga and  Kwazulu Natal) are lovely (up to 25°C), the nights are cool. The winter months are the dry season in the African savannah, this is the ideal time for safari as the lush green is dry and the change to see game larger.

The hottest months of the year are December and January. There is a moderate to very strong south easterly wind in the Cape (Cape Doctor) which can be compared with the mistral winds in south Europe.

Safety:

Be aware of pickpockets and street children. Try to act inconspicuous and preferably do not take any money out of bank machines (ATM) on the street. It is better to take money inside the bank or ATM within the building.

Driving at night is not to be recommended!

The general emergency number is: 10111

Traffic:

We drive in South Africa on the left. The maximum speed is 120 km/h, on provincial roads 100 km/h, in the city 60 km/h. Maximum alcohol level in the blood is 0.5.

Driving on the complete left, over the yellow line is a traffic offence. This is a manoeuvre which a lot of people do, some how it is generally accepted but keep in mind that this is extremely dangerous (pedestrians, cyclists...). It is and stays a traffic offence and can be fined.

Most petrol stations are 24h open. Payment per credit card is not possible, only cash. Cooling water and oil level is checked. A small tip is appreciated.

Transport:

Public transport is simply dangerous. Travelling by train, even in first class is very dangerous except on the big routes such as the Trans Karoo or the Algoa Train. The privately operated trains such as the Blue Train and Rovos Rail are absolutely safe! Travelling between the big cities by bus is safe (Greyhound, Intercape, Bazz Bus...). It is possible to take a minibus taxi within the cities, this kind of public transport is cheap but very dangerous on the long distance routes (the vehicles are not always road worthy! A minibus taxi can be stopped anywhere at any time. Meter taxi is expensive. It is recommended to have your own rental vehicle.

 
Languages:

South Africa has 11 official languages. English is supposed to be understood by the majority of the population.

Water:

Drinking tap water is very safe! The drinking water in Cape Town belongs to the best in the world from all major cities. Do not drink from pools, rivers or unknown source.

 
Tip:

Service charge is not included, a tip of 10% is given and 1 - 2 rand at petrol stations. It is also recommended to tip local guides.

Time:

South Africa has the same time as Western Europe during the European summer months. There is a one hour time difference during the European winter. There are no time zones within the country.

 
Telephone:

South Africa has a good developed telephone network. Telephone cards and airtime for cell phones can be bought in service stations, shops, supermarkets and post office. The cheapest way of phoning with a cell phone is buy your own chip card.

Dialing abroad is recently with the '00' international access code.

Internet is available in most hotels and there are internet cafes in the cities.

   
VAT:

VAT can be claimed back at the airport. Keep the payment slips from your purchased goods. The payment slips should show 'VAT number', VAT amount paid, the total payment and a short description of the purchased goods (not valid for consumption goods like wine, photo rolls, batteries...). The paperwork can be prepared at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town (take your pasport and flight ticket/e-ticket with you). Preparing the documents at the Waterfront will safe you much time as the goods only have to be showed at the airport. It is of course also possible to arrange everything at the airport but it can be time consuming during peak season. In case you have a domestic flight before leaving the country, refund can only be done at the international airport where you take your international flight.

Visa:

European citizen must be in possession of an international passport and a return flight ticket (except when other agreements were obtained by your local South African embassy/consulate). You will be granted a maximum stay of three months in the country. A passport must be at least another 6 months valid on arrival and have at least two blank pages left. The same rules are for most Common Wealth Countries and the United States citizen. For more information, please contact your local South African

 
Customs allowance:

Duty-free allowances: a person under 18 is not entitled to tobacco, cigarettes or drinks allowances. Cigarettes: 200, cigars 20, cigarette or pipe tobacco 250 g, wine: 2 L, spirituous or other alcoholic beverages: 1 L, perfume: 50 ml, toilet water: 250 ml, gifts, souvenirs and all other goods: R3000.

Flat Rate Assessment: you may elect to pay duty at a flat rate of 20% on goods up to a value of R12.000 over and above your duty free allowances.

MAIN DISTANCE TABLE - SOUTH AFRICA (km)

Bloemfontein

 

1004

Cape Town

 

634

1753

Durban

 

586

1099

679

East London

 

869

438

1317

638

George

 

398

1402

630

1002

1285

Johanesburg

177

962

811

780

824

472

Kimberley

932

629

1254

575

63

1351

887

Knysna

743

506

1377

575

60

1170

698

123

Oudtshoorn

968

665

1218

538

99

1387

923

36

159

Plettenberg Bay

677

769

1003

324

314

1099

1138

251

374

215

Port Elizabeth

456

1460

636

1040

1229

58

530

1417

1199

1348

1133

Pretoria

570

1314

445

234

872

862

747

809

932

773

558

920

Umtata