South Africa is situated in the Southern Hemisphere. The republic covers an area of roughly 1,227,200 square km. This is almost five times the size of the United Kingdom or about one eighth of the area comprising the United States of America.
Currently there are eleven official languages. They are English, Afrikaans, isiNdebele, Sesotho, siSwati, Xitsonga, Setswana, Tshivenda, isiXhosa and isiZulu. English is widely spoken thoughout South Africa, In KwaZulu-Natal the three main languages are isiZulu, English and Afrikaans.
Geographical location places South Africa in a standard time zone two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time throughout the year, seven hours behind Eastern Standard Winter Time and one hour ahead of Central European Standard Winter Time.
South Africa has an average of 8.5 hours of sunshine a day. The sun can be fierce and the use of sunscreen is recommended. The Cape has a distinctive Mediterranean climate, whilst Kwa-Zulu Natal experiences a subtropical climate and can get very hot in summer.
Average temperature: (in degrees Centigrade)
Cape Town: summer – 25°C winter – 17°C
Durban: summer – 30°C winter – 22°C
Johannesburg: summer – 28°C winter – 18°C
Bloemfontein: summer – 30°C winter- 18°C
Pretoria : summer – 28°C winter – 21°C
South Africa’s currency unit is the Rand. R 1 = 100 cents.
Bank notes are issued in denominations of R 200, R 100, R 50, R 20 and R 10.
Coins come in denominations of R 5, R 2, R 1, 50c, 20c, 10c, 5c, 2c and 1c.
The international symbol for the currency is ZAR.
Foreign banknotes of all major currencies will be exchanged at a bureau de change, commercial banks, airports and major hotels. Johannesburg International Airport provides a 24-hour banking service.
Credit Cards or Traveler’s Cheques are recommended travelling currencies. American Express, Visa Card, Master Card, Diners Club Traveler’s Cheques and Credit Cards are generally honoured. Petrol cannot be paid for with standard Credit Cards, so it is advised to carry a small amount of cash for this purpose.
In restaurants a gratuity of 10% of the bill generally applies however this is entirely up to one’s own perception of the standard of service received.
It is advisable to take the same precautions as you would in any major city. Do not walk around alone at night. Do not draw attention to yourself by wearing any expensive jewellery or carrying lots of cash on you. Always lock doors and windows when you are not occupying your room.
Excellent medical services are readily available throughout South Africa. It is essential however to take out Travel and Medical Insurance. Always consult your GP or pharmacist before travelling to South Africa.
It is compulsory for people who travel to South Africa from a yellow fever zone to have a valid international vaccination certificate. Recommended immunizations include diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria, typhoid and yellow fever.
Malaria regions include Northern Province, Mpumalanga, and the north of Kwa-Zulu Natal where there is a malaria risk all year. Preventative medication is available at pharmacies throughout South Africa. A good mosquito repellent spray can be obtained locally.
In all the major cities and towns most tap water is purified and 100% safe to drink. Don’t drink river or dam water. It is advisable to use bottled drinking water in rural areas.
Countries exempt from South African Visas: Visas are not required by citizens of the following countries for the periods and subject to the conditions indicated: Holders of South African passports, travel documents and documents for travel purposes.
Holders of passports of the UK and Northern Ireland including the British Islands Bailiwick of Guernsey and Jersey, Isle of Mann and Virgin islands as well as the Republic of Ireland are totally exempt from South African visa control and thus do not require visas for any purpose regulated by visas.
Visitors are required to have a valid passport to travel. Most visas are issued free of charge to those certain countries that do require a visa. Before leaving for your South African holiday check with your embassy to see if you require a holiday visa.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office website provides information on visas, healthcare and safety tips and is worth a visit before you travel. www.fco.gov.uk