About South Africa
South Africa is located on the southern tip of the African continent, bordered by northern neighbours Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It encompasses the independent mountain kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland and is flanked by the Atlantic Ocean on the west and the warm Indian Ocean on the east - giving the country its spectacular range of biodiversity.
South Africa is one of the most diverse and interesting countries in the world. Tourists flock to South Africa for its natural beauty, wildlife and sunshine. South Africa's immensely varied terrain supports a rich diversity of animals, birds, and plant-life and offers an incomparable range of experiences. Whether you're in South Africa on safari or to enjoy the beaches, breathtaking drives, or unspoiled wilderness, we hope that you will experience the very best that South Africa has to offer. More info about South Africa, and more info about Cape Town.
More exciting tourist information available from the Cape Town & Western Cape Tourism Board.
Information for Tourists & Visitors
South African Standard Time
South African Standard Time is two hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT +2), one hour in advance of central European winter time and seven hours in advance of United States eastern standard time throughout the year. There are no time zone differences within the country. Calculate the current SA time with the Time Zone Converter.
Every person seeking to enter South Africa must be in possession of a valid passport for travel to South Africa and, where necessary, a visa. Enquiries can be directed to South African diplomatic representatives abroad or the Department of Home Affairs in Pretoria. For visa forms, go to Immigration Services. Visitors who intend travelling to South Africa's neighbouring countries and back into South Africa are advised to apply for multiple entry visas.
In terms of existing arrangements, passport holders of certain countries are exempt from visa requirements. Tourists must satisfy immigration officers that they have the means to support themselves during their stay, and that they are in possession of return or onward air tickets. They must also have valid international health certificates.
No international immunisation is needed when entering South Africa. The only inoculation requirement is a yellow fever vaccination certificate from travellers over one year of age entering South Africa within six days of leaving an infected country. Visitors who travel through or disembark in these areas are advised to be inoculated against the disease before visiting South Africa.
Malaria Risk Areas
This disease is to the larger extent under control in South Africa. Regions that are affected are the Northern Province and Mpumalanga, northern KwaZulu Natal and Zululand. The risk of contracting the disease is negligible provided that you take the standard precautions. Malaria tablets, a good insect repellent particularly in the evening, long-sleeved shirts and mosquito coils are advisable precautions. Please consult you Health Practitioner prior to traveling to these regions.
Safety and Security
As South Africa is a developing country, crime does exist, so we would advise you to take a few basic precautions. All valuables, passports, cameras, should be locked in the safe of your hotel. Valuables should be carried discreetly when walking in cities. Gold and other expensive items offered for sale by street vendors are likely to be fakes or stolen property. Do not participate in pavement games as they are operated by well organised gangs and money can be stolen while you are distracted.
Public transport is available in South Africa so there is no need to hitch-hike. Your hotel/guest house will be able to advise you on safe transport. If driving, do not pick up hitch-hikers and ensure that your car doors are locked at all times. The South African Police are easily recognised in their blue uniforms and by their white and blue patrol vehicles.
Making international calls from South Africa
If you wish to make a call to an international destination, you must first dial 00, which is South Africa's international access code. You then dial the country code, area code of the city or region and the number of the person you wish to call, e.g. if you make a call to Sydney, Australia, telephone number 456 1234 you must dial 00 612 456-1234.
Some companies, such as Rent-a-Mobile, will offer you a suite of options to use a mobile phone while you are in South Africa. Click on the link below for details.
Broadband internet access is available throughout South Africa. Inquire at your hotel/guest house or at the Business Centre, The Pavilion Conference Centre.
Weather & Climate
South Africa's climatic conditions generally range from Mediterranean in the southwestern corner of South Africa to temperate in the interior plateau, and subtropical in the northeast. A small area in the northwest has a desert climate. Most of the country has warm, sunny days and cool nights. Rainfall generally occurs during summer (November through March), although in the southwest, around Cape Town, rainfall occurs in winter (June to August). Temperatures are influenced by variations in elevation, terrain, and ocean currents more than latitude.
Temperature and rainfall patterns vary in response to the movement of a high pressure belt that circles the globe between 25º and 30º south latitude during the winter and low-pressure systems that occur during summer. There is very little difference in average temperatures from south to north, however, in part because the inland plateau rises slightly in the northeast.
Climatic conditions vary noticeably between east and west, largely in response to the warm Agulhas ocean current, which sweeps southward along the Indian Ocean coastline in the east for several months of the year, and the cold Benguela current, which sweeps northward along the Atlantic Ocean coastline in the west. Air temperatures in Durban, on the Indian Ocean, average nearly 6º C warmer than temperatures at the same latitude on the Atlantic Ocean coast. The effects of these two currents can be seen even at the narrow peninsula of the Cape of Good Hope, where water temperatures average 4º C higher on the east side than on the west.
Rainfall varies considerably from west to east. In the northwest, annual rainfall often remains below 200 millimeters. Much of the eastern Highveld, in contrast, receives 500 millimeters to 900 millimeters of rainfall per year; occasionally, rainfall there exceeds 2,000 millimeters. A large area of the center of the country receives about 400 millimeters of rain, on average, and there are wide variations closer to the coast. The 400-millimeter "rainfall line" has been significant because land east of the rainfall line is generally suitable for growing crops, and land west of the rainfall line, only for livestock grazing or crop cultivation on irrigated land.
View the weather forecast for Cape Town.
Electricity in South Africa
220/230 volts AC at 50 cycles per second. Three pronged plugs are universal and specific to South Africa, so take an adapter. Most British/American/Australasian/European plugs will not work. Visit kropla.com for details. Adapters are easily available at hotels, airport shops and travel shops.
Most hotel rooms have 110 volt outlets for electric shavers and small appliances.
Cape Town International Airport
Cape Town International Airport is the primary airport serving the city of Cape Town, and is the second busiest airport in South Africa and third busiest in Africa. Located approximately 20 kilometres (12 mi) from the city centre, the airport was opened in 1954 to replace Cape Town's previous airport in the suburb of Wingfield. Cape Town International Airport is the only airport in the Cape Town metropolitan area that offers scheduled passenger services.
The airport has direct flights from South Africa's other two main urban areas, Johannesburg and Durban, as well as flights to smaller centres in South Africa. Internationally, it has direct flights to several destinations in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. The air route between Cape Town and Johannesburg was the world's fifth busiest air route in 2007 as well as the busiest in Africa, with the air route between Cape Town and Durban being the fifth busiest in Africa.
In 2009, Cape Town International Airport received the Skytrax award for the best airport in Africa. The airport has domestic and international terminals, linked by a common central terminal.
Transport to and from the airport
Please arrange with your hotel/guest house.
There are also various shuttle services that you can use - these have kiosks at the airport.
SA Postal Services
Post Offices are open Monday to Friday from 08h00 to 16h30 and on Saturday from 08h00 to 12h00. No postal service is offered on Sundays. Mail may be addressed to you Post Restante. The main post offices have special counters for this purpose. Postage stamps are widely available (e.g. at some cafés and branches of the Central News Agency - CNA).
Visit the SA Post Office online.
Official Languages spoken in South Africa
English is spoken everywhere you go. English is the language of the cities, of commerce and banking, of government and official documents. All our road signs and official forms are in English and at any hotel, Bed and Breakfast or Guest House, the service staff will speak to you in English.
SA Currency and Exchange Rates
1rand (R) = 100 cents (c).
Notes issued R500, R200, R100, R50, R20, R10; coins R5, R2, R1, 50c 20c, 10c, 5c.
Currency exchange rates are available at banks, hotels and published daily in the press. Use the currency converter to see how much your money is worth in SA currency.
Tipping and Gratuities
Tipping is customary in South Africa. A guideline for visitors is the following: Porters R5 per item, taxis 10%, waiters and waitresses in restaurants 10-15%.
Banking / Financial Services
The following are the major Banks / Financial institutions in South Africa
Banking hours: Monday to Friday from 09h00 to 15h30; Saturday from 09h00 to 11h00.
ATMs (automated teller machines) are found in most towns and operate on a 24 hour basis.
Travellers cheques: Most international traveller's cheques are accepted provided they are in an acceptable currency and may be cashed at most banks. Many hotels and shops also provide this service.
VAT and Refunds
As a visitor to South Africa, you can spend as little as R250.00 on goods intended for export, and claim a VAT refund. The user-friendly procedure allows you to claim your money before you even leave South African territory.
Non-residents on a temporary visit to South Africa are eligible to claim a VAT refund in respect of movable goods exported through a designated point of departure within 90 days from the date of purchase.
Maximum payment by cheque will be for an amount of R3000.00. Claims exceeding this limit or claims requiring further audit, will be posted.
o Goods consumed in South Africa or services rendered in the country do not qualify for VAT refunds.
o Only original Tax Invoices will be considered for refunds.
o The goods must be presented for inspection on departure.
o Goods must be exported within 90 days of the date of purchase and the claim lodged within 3 months from the date of export.
o An administration fee of 1.5% of the inclusive value of the claim will be deducted, subject to a minimum of R 10.00 and a maximum of R 250.00.
o Diplomats posted to South Africa should contact their embassies for details of the applicable refund scheme.
o Special provisions apply to antiques, 2nd hand goods and registerable goods.
HOW TO CLAIM YOUR TAX REFUND:
Simply identify yourself as a tourist to shop assistants, and request a Tax Invoice for the goods you have purchased.
A VALID TAX INVOICE MUST CONTAIN ALL THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION:
o The words "Tax Invoice"
o A Tax Invoice number
o The seller's VAT Registration number
o Date of Issue of the Tax Invoice
o The seller's name and address
o The buyer's name and address
o A full description of the goods purchased
o The cost of the goods in Rands
o The amount of VAT charged or a statement that VAT is included in the total cost
FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
Contact: VAT Refund Administrator (Pty) Ltd
Postal Address: P.O. Box 107; OR Tambo International Airport
Postal code: 1627
Telephone: +27 (0)11 394 - 1117
Facsimile: +27 (0)11 394 - 1430