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South Africa – General Travel Information

Health
South Africa has a relatively salubrious climate and the levels of water treatment, hygiene, etc, make it a pretty safe destination to visit. South Africa has a warm, sunny climate and one should wear sunscreen and a hat when outdoor activities are undertaken.

Vaccinations
Adults do not need any inoculations, unless you are traveling from a yellow-fever endemic area (yellow fever belt of Africa or South America), in which case you will need certification to prove your inoculation status on arrival in South Africa. A yellow fever inoculation certificate only becomes valid 10 days after inoculation, after which it remains valid for 10 years.
Hepatitis B inoculations are recommended for children up to the age of 12 who have not completed the series of injections as infants. Booster doses for tetanus and measles can be administered.

Medical facilities
Medical facilities in cities and large towns in South Africa is of world-class, but clinics and hospitals in rural areas only deal with primary health needs and therefore do not offer the range of medical care that the large metropolitan hospitals do. Trained medical caregivers are however deployed countrywide, so help is never far away. Medical and hospital charges must be paid for immediately. Travel insurance is strongly recommended.

Water
High quality tap (faucet) water is available almost everywhere in South Africa, treated so as to be free from harmful micro-organisms, and in any area other than informal or shack settlements, is both palatable and safe to drink straight from the tap.

Malaria
Many of the main tourist areas are malaria-free, however the Kruger National Park, the Lowveld of Mpumalanga, and the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal do pose malaria risk in the summer months. Many local people and some travellers prefer not to take malaria prophylaxis, but most health professionals will recommend that you do so. Consult your doctor or a specialist travel clinic for the latest advice concerning malaria prophylaxis, as it changes regularly.
Whether you take oral prophylaxis or not, always use mosquito repellent, wear long pants, closed shoes and light long-sleeved shirts at night. Always sleep under a mosquito net in endemic areas as anopheles mosquito, which carries malaria, operates exclusively after dark. It is advisable to avoid malarial areas if you are pregnant.

HIV/AIDS
South Africa has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world.

Passports & Visa
Incoming visitors to South Africa must ensure that their passports meet the following 2 requirements:

  • Passport not less than 6 months before date of expiry
  • That there is at least 1 full, free page in their passport for stamping by officials
  • A return or onward ticket

Depending on your nationality, and the purpose and duration of your visit, you may not need a visa to visit South Africa at all. Please check visa requirements with your local travel agent before leaving your country of origin.
Yellow fever certificates are required if the journey starts or entails passing through the yellow fever belt of Africa or South America.

Credit cards
All major credit cards can be used in South Africa, with American Express and Diners Club enjoying less universal acceptance than MasterCard and Visa. In some small towns, you may find that you will need to use cash for purchases.
Please note that - you can't purchase fuel with a credit card. You can pay at road tolls with MasterCard or Visa.

Driving
South Africans drive on the left-hand side of the road and give way to the right.
Generally the speed limit on national highways, urban freeways and other major routes in South Africa is 120 km/h (75 mph), that on secondary (rural) roads is 100 km/h (60 mph), and in built-up areas 60 km/h (35 mph) unless otherwise indicated. Pay attention to the signs in this regard.

Electricity
Electricity is generally 220/230 volts, 15 amps, and is supplied through either 15-amp three-prong or 5-amp two-prong plugs, in both cases with round pins. If you're bringing anything electrical, bring an adapter – or you could buy one here in South Africa.

Languages
South Africa is a multi-lingual country and besides the 11 official languages (Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda and Xitsongo), scores of African, European, Asian and more, are spoken here. English is generally understood across the country and is the language of administration, commerce, politics and the media. Afrikaans developed out of Dutch from the 17th century, when the first settlers arrived and it was recognised as a language in 1925, having previously been regarded as a dialect of Dutch. Afrikaans is the dominant language in the Western- and Northern Cape, while in the Free State it’s the language of the media.

Safety
Useful phone numbers:
Police (SAPS) Emergency number – 10111
Mobile phone Emergency number – 112
Ambulance/Fire number – 10177

Make sure you follow standard safety procedures:

  • Never leave your luggage unattended.
  • Store valuables in the hotel’s safety deposit box.
  • Keep your room locked, whether you’re in it or not.
  • Don’t leave handbags in Restaurants under tables, on the back of a chair or on restroom hooks.
  • Travel in groups, especially if you are visiting a nightclub, bar or shebeen.
  • At night, steer clear of dark, isolated areas.
  • Obtain a map and plan your route before you undertake an excursion.
  • A policeman or traffic officer will be glad to direct you if you get lost.
  • Note that certain bank credit cards (such as Diners Club) are not accepted to pay for fuel
  • Keep the car doors locked at all times and wind the windows up.
  • Never pick up strangers or ask them for directions.

Money & travel documents:
Make two copies of all your important documents, like passports. Take one with you, in a different bag to the original, and leave one at home with a responsible, easily reachable person.
Don’t allow strangers to assist you with ATM transactions. If your card gets stuck, immediately call that ATM’s helpline number.

Tipping
Tipping is common practice in South Africa for a range of services. In restaurants the accepted standard is around 10% of the bill, although sometimes a gratuity will be included (often in the case of a large party).
Petrol stations are manned by attendants who will expect a tip of two or three rands for filling up with petrol, checking oil, water and tyre pressure and cleaning windscreens. Hotel porters should be tipped two to five rands. It is also appropriate to tip taxi drivers, tour guides and even hairdressers. Taxi drivers generally expect 10% of the bill.
If you park a car in a populated area such as near a shopping centre, street security guards will usually ask whether they can watch over your car and in return should be paid a small fee - anything from two rands upwards.

Weather

  • The Western Cape enjoys a Mediterranean-type climate with dry summers and rain in winter (June – September). Occasional winter snowfalls on mountains. Average maximum temperature is 26.2 °C; winter 17.9 °C.
  • Eastern Cape and Garden Route – elements of the Mediterranean climate of Cape Town as well as that of the summer (December – February) rainfall regions to the east. Average maximum summer temperature is 25.0 °C; winter 20.3 °C.
  • KwaZulu-Natal – summer rainfall (typically subtropical) and cool, dry winters. Regular snow on Drakensberg in winter. Average maximum summer temperature is 27.0 °C; winter 22.7 °C.
  • Gauteng and Mpumalanga – summer rainfall. Mild, dry winters with occasional early morning frost on Highveld. Johannesburg: Average maximum summer temperature is 25.9 °C; winter 18.0 °C.
  • Mid summer in Kruger National Park can exceed 35.0 °C.