SOUTH AFRICA, Things to Know Before You Go

  • While wildlife safaris are reason enough to visit this exquisite country, South Africa offers even more to see and do. For one, the city of Cape Town is a jewel that is well worth visiting. Set against the iconic Table Mountain, C.T. offers lots to explore, including the V&A Waterfront, Chapman’s Peak, Boulders Penguin Colony and several beautiful beaches — just to give you an idea. Not to mention the delicious food and fabulous shopping, which can all be enjoyed at a favorable exchange rate.
  • One of the biggest attractions in the Western Cape is the towns of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschoek . Boasting some of the best wine tours in the world, they offer picturesque vineyards, fantastic art galleries and gourmet food.
  • Furthermore, South Africans are some of the most upbeat, welcoming and humorous people you’ll ever encounter. You will be exposed to different cultures, languages and traditions that will certainly enhance your experience.
  • With so much diversity, South Africa has something for everyone to enjoy!
Visa Regulations and Guidance
  • As for all international travel, the visitor to South Africa is required to be in possession of a valid passport.  U.S. citizens  (US passport holders) traveling to the Republic of South Africa for 90 days or less for tourism or business purposes do not need visas. U.S. green card holders (non-US passport holders) require visas to visit South Africa.  Nationals of other countries must check the list of visa exempt countries to see if they need to apply for visas. 
  • Please note that all foreigners who wish to visit South Africa must have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after his/her intended return date. The passport must have a minimum of four blank (unstamped) visa pages in the passport to enter the country. It is preferred these are facing pages. Your international carrier can deny boarding if you do not have the blank (unstamped) visa pages. Travelers should make sure there are sufficient pages for visas and immigration stamps to enter into South Africa and other countries to be visited.  These blank pages cannot be endorsement or amendment pages.
  • As a general precaution, all travelers are advised to carry a photocopy of the photo/bio information page of their passport and keep it in a location separate from their passport.
Banking and Currency
Currency 
  • South Africa's currency is the Rand, which offers visitors great value for their money. The rand comes in a range of coins (R1 = 100 cents) and note denominations of R10, R20, R50, R100.  With the exchange rate in your favor, you'll find South Africa offers great value.
  • It is advisable to exchange US Dollars into Rands upon arrival for tips and small purchases where credit cards are not normally used.
  • Exchanging large denominations of US Dollars at game lodges can be challenging so come prepared
       Banking
  • Banks are found in most towns, and are generally open from 09h00 to 15h30 on weekdays and 08h30 to 11h00 on Saturdays (Closed Sundays and Public Holidays). Most of them offer foreign exchange services - with cash, bank & credit cards as well as traveler’s checks. You can also obtain cash from automatic teller machines (ATMs). Several international banks have branches in the main city centers. Always advise your bank that you are travelling outside of the country as they might block your purchases if they are not informed.
Travel, Transport and Getting Around
  • Travelling around South Africa is relatively easy by air, road and rail.
  • Principal air routes are serviced by SAA and British Airways, operated by Comair. There are 2 low-cost carriers on main routes, namely Kulula.com and Mango.  
  • Facilitating travel around South Africa are 10 airports managed by the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa). In addition, there are some 90 regional airports, including the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in Nelspruit and the Skukuza Airport, offering access to the Kruger National Park.
  • An extensive tarred road system makes travelling in South Africa by vehicle is convenient and easy. You will find gravel roads in rural areas though. Another means of getting around South Africa are luxury inter-city bus services such as Greyhound and Trans-Lux.  ‘Metro-bus’, buses are available for in-city transport.  Metered taxis must be ordered by telephone. There is a hop-on-hop-off bus in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
  • Our rail system includes the long-haul, inexpensive Shosholoza Meyl Metrorail trains. More luxurious options are the Blue Train, Premier Class and the steam train Rovos Rail.  There is also the new Gautrain rapid transit railway system in Gauteng Province which links Johannesburg, Pretoria, Ekhuruleni and OR Tambo International Airport.
Health and Medical Information
  • Many of the main tourist areas are malaria-free, so you need not worry at all. However, the Kruger National Park, the Lowveld of Mpumalanga and Limpopo, and the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal do pose a malaria risk in the summer months.
  • Many local people and some travelers do not take anti-malaria prophylaxis, but most health professionals recommend that you do.   All guests must consult their own medical doctor or health authorities regarding the use of anti-malarial tablets prior to departure.
  • Whether you take oral prophylaxis or not, always use mosquito repellent, wear long pants, closed shoes, light long-sleeved shirts at night, and sleep under a mosquito net in endemic areas (the anopheles mosquito, which carries malaria, operates almost exclusively after dark). Mosquito repellent containing “deet” is best.  It is advisable to avoid malarial areas if you are pregnant.
Safety Notices
  • If you have lost your passport or wallet, please contact the local police department and file a report.  Once you have done this, contact one of South Africa’s U.S. Embassies or Consulates (located in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban). 
Contact Information:
  • Cape Town Consulate General
  • Telephone : (021) 702 - 7300
  • Email: americanscapetown@state.gov
  • Johannesburg Consulate General
  • Telephone: (011) 290 - 3000
  • Email: consularjohannesburg@state.gov
  • Alternately, you can obtain information online at http://southafrica.usembassy.gov/.
  • 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 centers and townships. Food safety in such instances cannot always be guaranteed.
Climate and Weather
  • In the Western Cape, the average rainfall is highest in the winter months, while in other provinces, the average rainfall is highest during the summer. Overall South Africa enjoys a temperate and pleasant climate, with lovely warm sunny days most of the year.  KwaZulu-Natal has a sub-tropical climate with high humidity in summer. The Southern Gauteng region has hot summers with occasional thundershowers and frosty winters, while the Eastern part of this region (known as the Lowveld) enjoys mild winters. The Cape interior and the Free State have similar weather conditions to the Southern Gauteng region. The Western Cape region has a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and cold, wet winters.
  • Spring: September – October 
  • Summer: November - February
  • Autumn: March – April
  • Winter: May – August  
Clothing and Dress Recommendations
  • Summer
  • Bring clothes that are cool, light and comfortable because summer temperatures can get well into the 30 - 40 degree Celsius range in some areas. Also bring an umbrella or raincoat during summer as this is when most of the country gets its rain, but don't forget a swimming costume (bathing suit).
Winter
  • The winters are generally mild, comparing favorably with European summers.  But there are days when temperatures dive, especially in high-lying areas such as the Drakensberg, so be prepared with jerseys and jackets. Cape Town gets its rain during the winter season so it’s advisable to bring rain gear along.
General
  • Always bring a hat, sunglasses and sunblock as the sun can be strong even in the winter months.
  • Walking shoes are a good idea all year-round, with warm socks in the winter.
  • If you are doing business in the country, business attire (suit and tie) is generally called for in the corporate sector, but media for example generally dress more casually.
  • For game viewing, a couple of neutral-toned items will be useful, but there's no need to go overboard. A good pair of walking shoes is also advisable.
  • For the evening, if you are dining at an upmarket restaurant or seeing a show, smart-casual attire is recommended.
  • Electricity and Plug Standards
  • The South African electricity supply is 220/230 volts AC 50 HZ. With a few exceptions (in deep rural areas) electricity is available almost everywhere. However, you will need to purchase or bring adapters for the outlets. You can purchase the adapters in many US stores, online, or from a store while in South Africa. Adapters are usually available on loan at major hotels in South Africa. Three to five star hotels usually have 110 volt outlets for electric shavers in bathrooms, and often provide hair dryers and irons. An NW 4 plug with two prongs, 0.19 inches in diameter is required for compatibility.
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