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South African Information

Below is a travel guide with South Africa Travel Information concerning visa requirements, travel insurance, safety precautions, money matters and much more. If you require any further information regarding South Africa, contact us today.

TRAVEL TIPS

A visa is required upon entering South Africa. Travel agents can provide further information on how they can be obtained. Upon arrival, you must be able to prove that you have enough money to support yourself during your stay. You must also have a valid return ticket.

Visa inquiries can be directed to the Department of Home Affairs: +27 12 314 8911

Arrange and pack your traveller's insurance to include:

  • Protection against trip cancellation or interruption for unexpected medical reasons.
  • Medical cover for illness or injury while abroad.
  • Emergency medical evacuation benefits.
  • Protection against baggage loss, theft or damage.
  • 24-hr assistance anywhere in the world.

Your Health and Welfare:

  • Your medical travel insurance will be linked to one of the major private clinics in the event of an emergency. Have the emergency number readily available.
  • Your South African travel guide will be able to direct you in the necessary direction if need arises.
  • Your Satour registered guide is a qualified First Aid Helper.
  • Netcare Emergency. 082 911
  • Western Cape Paramedic Service. 0800 225599 or (021) 551 6823
  • Medics Emergency. (021) 511 1111
  • MRI (Medical Rescue International). 0800 111990
  • General Ambulance. 10177
  • Automobile Association Emergency. 0800 010101
  • Using a MTN Cellphone. 112
  • Using a Vodacom Cellphone. 147

South African Tourism Info & Safety Call Line:

  • If you're a tourist in South Africa, travel information can be obtained at a one-stop national call centre waiting to assist you. The Tourism Information and Safety Call Line - 083 123 2345 - is a partnership between Engen and South African Tourism and can handle up to 3 000 calls a month. The centre was launched in February 2003 and is located in Engen Court, Foreshore, Cape Town. The line is a 24-hour operation manned by four people. The line is linked to the national tourism database, which has up-to date information on all services and products - accommodation, transport, activities, events and contacts.

Safety:

  • Take the precautions you would in any major city. Avoid carrying large sums of cash, cameras and leaving belongings unattended.
  • Important: In South Africa we drive on the left hand side of the road. Remember this when you want to cross a road.
  • When in South Africa, travel guides can be obtained at local stationary shops like the CNA, Exclusive Books etc.
  • Police Tourist Support Unit (07:30 - 23:00). Tel nr. (021) 421 5115/6
  • 24-hour Emergency Police Unit. Tel nr. 10111

Water:

  • Tap water is of highest quality.

Time Zones:

  • South African time is set at two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time or Universal Standard Time, one hour ahead of Central European Winter Time and seven hours ahead of USA's Eastern Standard Winter Time. There are no time zone differences in South Africa.

Currency in South Africa: travel information regarding finance

  • Currency: The South African unit of currency is the Rand, indicated by the letter 'R' before the amount. ('rand' is short for 'Witwatersrand', Gauteng's gold-bearing reef). Bank notes are issued in R10 (Green, White rhinoceros), R20 (Brown, African Elephant), R50 (Red, Lion), R100 (Purple-Blue, Buffalo) and R200 (Ocre, Leopard) denominations. The rand is divided into 100 cents ( c ).
  • Foreign exchange: Exchange facilities can be found at the airport, in many banks and bigger shopping malls. Automatic Teller Machines are widely available and will accept most international bank and credit cards
  • When in South Africa, travel guides can be obtained at local stationary shops like the CNA, Exclusive Books etc.
  • Credit cards: South Africa has a modern and sophisticated banking and commercial system, and most shops and hotels will accept credit cards. Petrol (gas) can not be purchased with a credit card but with cash or a separate petrol card.
  • Banking hours: Week day banking hours are from 09h00 to 15h30 and on Saturdays from 09h00 to 11h00. All airports with international arrivals and departures have special banking facilities for international passengers.
  • VAT: South Africa has adopted a Value Added Tax system of 14% on purchases and services. If you area foreign visitor to South Africa, you can reclaim your VAT on purchases if you have spent more than R250. This is usually done at the VAT office at the Airport before checking in on departure. Leave yourself some time to do this - you will need your original tax invoices and your passport, and will need to fill in a form and have the goods you bought available for inspection.
  • Tipping: Many waiters and waitresses are university students who rely on tips to pay their wages. A 10% tip is the norm although it is your decision on how to reward good or not reward bad service. Tables of over eight usually have an automatic 10% service charge added to their bill. A tip of R2 per piece of luggage is acceptable to porters in hotels and at airports.
  • Exchange Rates: Check the financials, generally very favourable for international travellers.

Business Hours:

  • Shopping and business hours: Most shops in the city centre and suburbs open between 08h00 and17h00 to 17h30. Shops in some major malls may open at 09h00 and close at 21h00 or later even on Sundays and most public holidays. Government agencies still keep to traditional weekday only hours. Moslem-owned businesses close at noon on Fridays and re-open at 13h00.

Weather and Seasons:

  • South Africa's average number of hours of sunshine each day is amongst the highest in the world: 8,5 compared with 3,8 in London, 6,4 in Rome and 6,9 in New York.
  • Our annual average rainfall is only 464 mm, against a world average of 857 mm. South Africa is thus largely a dry country. Approximately 31% of its area records a higher than 600 mm rainfall per year with some areas as high as 2500 mm per year.
  • Midsummer occurs in December and January, midwinter in June and July. The climate ranges from Mediterranean in the Western Cape to subtropical on the KwaZulu-Natal coast and in the Northern and Eastern parts of South Africa. On the Highveld, there is sunshine all year round. Summers are hot with thunder; winters bright, dry and cold. At the Cape the summers and early autumn months from January to May are best; winters can be wet and chilly. Most tourists visit Cape Town during our long summer from November to February. A Mediterranean climate with little rain, 11 hours a day sunshine or more and long sunny evenings sets a party mood. The Californian weather explains why Cape Town has become a favoured site for foreign film and TV crews escaping from the Northern Hemisphere winter. In KwaZulu Natal summers are hot and humid with thunder at sea level. June to August is the best months for game viewing.

Telephones and Communication:

  • If you're visiting from abroad, you can hire a cell-phone (mobile phone) at the airport or in other major centres. You'll need to leave a substantial credit card deposit. Some international mobiles will work here if you have them add a local Sim Card. Cellphone numbers are dialled without the area codes.
  • Some blue public phones work on coins (50c and R1 coins are best) while green public phones work on local Telkom phone cards, which you can purchase in a variety of shops and post offices. If you are an international traveller, it's worth buying one at entry. Land-line numbers starts with a three digit area code (including the zero) followed by the number.
  • Post from South Africa is remarkably reasonable and there are local courier companies who can help you ship your purchases home and deal with formalities.
  • Faxes are widely available.
  • The internet and e-mail facilities are widely available.
  • For directory enquiries phone 1023.

Electricity:

  • 220/230V AC at 50 Hz. plugs with round pins.

Signature Tours operate throughout South Africa, travel guide and transport services can easily be arranged - contact us today.

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SOUTH AFRICA TRAVEL INFORMATION

"Home to the world's strangest and most dramatic landscapes" is a great way to describe South Africa. Tour a unique wealth of animal and plant life, treasures of gold and a kaleidoscope of fascinating cultures.

South Africa is about extremes, Deserts and savannas, snow-covered mountains and grasslands, high forests and tropical mangrove swamps. Within these climatic zones, Earth's most diverse plant population flourishes.

South Africa is also the home of big game, and hosts birds as varied as the vast range of habitats and foods that nature has prepared for them.

South Africa's fascinating and diverse peoples are its greatest asset. Known as the cradle of civilisation, archaeologists discovered 2,5 million-year-old fossils of our earliest ancestors, as well as 100 000-year-old remains of modern man.

The People:

On the night of 9 October 1996 there were 40,58 million people in South Africa (Census '96). Of these, 76,7% classified themselves as African; 10,9% as white; 8,9% as coloured; and 2,6% as Indian/Asian. According to statistics, the country's population is estimated at 43 686 million.

The South African population consists of the following groups: the Nguni people (including the Zulu, Xhosa and Swazi), who account for two-thirds of the population; the Sotho-Tswana people, who include the Southern, Northern and Western Sotho (Tswana); the Tsonga; the Venda; Afrikaners; English; coloureds; Indians, and people who have immigrated to South Africa from the rest of Africa, Europe and Asia and who maintain a strong cultural identity. A few members of the Khoi and the San (the original inhabitants) also live in South Africa.

Languages:

The South African Constitution, 1996 (Act 108 of 1996), states that everyone has the right to use the language and to participate in the cultural life of his or her choice, but no one may do so in a manner inconsistent with any provision of the Bill of Rights. Each person also has the right to instruction in the language of his or her choice where this is reasonably practicable.

To cater for South Africa's diverse peoples, the Constitution provides for 12 official languages, namely: Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga and sign language for people with a hearing disability.

Recognising the historically diminished use and status of the indigenous languages, the Constitution expects the Government to take positive measures to elevate the status and advance the use of these languages. According to the Census '96 figures, isiZulu is the mother tongue of 22,9% of the population, followed by isiXhosa (17,9%), Afrikaans (14,4%), Sepedi (9,2%) and English (8,6%).

Tourists travelling in South Africa will be pleased to know that most hotels, restaurants and tour operators speak European languages.

The Land:

The Republic of South Africa occupies the southern part of the African continent, stretching from 22° to 35° S (latitude) and longitudinally from 17° to 33° E.

Its surface area is 1 219 090 km2. This is an area bigger than Germany, France and Italy combined. It has common boundaries with the republics of Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, while the Republic of Mozambique and the Kingdom of Swaziland lie to the north-east. Completely enclosed by South African territory in the south-east is the mountain kingdom of Lesotho.

To the west, south and east, South Africa borders on the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Isolated, 1 920 km southeast of Cape Town in the Atlantic, lie Prince Edward and Marion islands, annexed by South Africa in 1947.

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The Seas:

South Africa is surrounded by the ocean on three sides, to the west, south and east and has a long coastline of about 3 000 km. This coastline is swept by two major ocean currents, the warm south-flowing Mozambique-Agulhas Current and the cold Benguela. The former skirts the east and south coasts as far as Cape Agulhas, while the Benguela Current flows northwards along the west coast as far as southern Angola.

The contrast in temperature between these two currents partly accounts for important differences in climate and vegetation between the east and west coasts of South Africa. It also causes big differences in marine life. The cold waters of the west coast are much richer in oxygen, nitrates, phosphates and plankton than those of the east coast. Consequently, the South African fishing industry is centred on the west coast.

The Coasts:

Tourists often enjoy travelling South Africa because of its beautiful coastal regions. The coastline is an even, closed one with few bays or indentations naturally suitable for harbours. The only ideal natural harbour along the coastline is Saldanha Bay on the west coast. However, the area lacks fresh water and offers no natural lines of penetration to the interior.

Most river mouths are unsuitable for use as harbours because large sand bars block entry for most of the year. These bars are formed by the action of waves and currents, and by the intermittent flow, heavy sediment load and steep gradients of most South African rivers. nly the largest rivers, such as the Orange and Limpopo, maintain narrow permanent channels through the bars. For much the same reasons, the country has no navigable rivers.

Relief Features:

The surface area of South Africa falls into two major physiographic features: the interior plateau and the land between the plateau and the coast. Forming the boundary between these two areas is the Great Escarpment, the most prominent and continuous relief feature of the country. Its height above sea level varies from approximately 1 500 m in the dolerite-capped Roggeveld scarp in the south-west to a height of 3 482 m in the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg.

Inland from the Escarpment lays the interior plateau, which is the southern continuation of the great African plateau stretching north to the Sahara Desert. The plateau itself is characterised by wide plains with an average height of 1 200 m above sea level.

Surmounting the plateau in places are a number of well-defined upland blocks. The dissected Lesotho plateau, which is more than 3 000 m above sea level, is the most prominent. In general, the Escarpment forms the highest parts of the plateau.

Between the Great Escarpment and the coast lies an area which varies in width from 80 to 240 km in the east and south to a mere 60 to 80 km in the west. At least three major subdivisions can be recognised: the eastern plateau slopes, the Cape folded belt and adjacent regions, and the western plateau slopes.

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Climatic Information:

The subtropical location, on either side of 30° S, accounts for the warm temperate conditions so typical of South Africa, making it a popular destination for foreign tourists.

The country also falls squarely within the subtropical belt of high pressure, making it dry, with an abundance of sunshine.

The wide expanses of ocean on three sides of South Africa have a moderating influence on its climate. More apparent, however, are the effects of the warm Agulhas and cold Benguela currents along the east and west coasts respectively. While Durban (east coast) and Port Nolloth (west coast) lie more or less on the same latitude, there is a difference of at least 6°C in their mean annual temperatures.

Strong winds are frequent on the coasts, especially in the south-western and southern coastal areas.

South Africa's Rainfall:

South Africa has an average annual rainfall of 464 mm, compared with a world average of 860 mm. About 20% of the country has a total annual rainfall of less than 200 mm, 48% between 200 and 600 mm, while only about 30% records more than 600 mm. In total, 65% of the country has an annual rainfall of less than 500 mm- usually regarded as the absolute minimum for successful dry-land farming.

In Cape Town, the capital city of the Western Cape, the average rainfall is highest in the winter months, while in the capital cities of the other eight provinces, the average rainfall is highest during summer.

South Africa's rainfall is largely unreliable and unpredictable. Fluctuations in the average annual figure are the rule rather than the exception in most areas of the country. Years when a below-average figure is recorded are more common than years with an above-average total. South Africa is periodically afflicted by droughts, which often end in floods.

Temperatures:

Temperature conditions in South Africa are characterised by three main features. Firstly, temperatures tend to be lower than in other regions at similar latitudes, for example Australia. This is due primarily to the greater elevation above sea level of the subcontinent.

Secondly, despite a latitudinal span of 13 degrees, average annual temperatures are remarkably uniform throughout the country. Owing to the increase in the height of the plateau towards the northeast, there is hardly any increase in temperature from south to north as might be expected.

The third feature is the striking contrast between temperatures on the east and west coasts. Temperatures above 32°C are fairly common in summer, and frequently exceed 38°C in the lower Orange River valley and the Mpumalanga Lowveld.

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Frost, Humidity and Fog:

Frost often occurs on the interior plateau during cold, clear winter nights, with ice forming on still pools and in water-pipes. The frost season is longest (from April to October) over the eastern and southern plateau areas bordering on the Escarpment. Frost decreases to the north, while the coast is virtually frost-free. Average annual relative humidity readings show that, in general, the air is driest over the western interior and over the plateau. Along the coast, the humidity is much higher and at times may rise to 85%. Low stratus clouds and fog frequently occur over the cool west coast, particularly during summer. The only other area that commonly experiences fog is the 'mist belt' along the eastern foothills of the Escarpment.

Sunshine:

South Africa is famous for its sunshine. Sunshine is plentiful, varying from 7,5 to 9,5 hours daily, compared to 3,8 hours average in London and 6,9 hours in New York.

Religion: Religious groups in South Africa:

Almost 80% of South Africa's population adheres to the Christian faith. Other major religious groups are the Hindus, Muslims and Jews. A minority of South Africa's population does not belong to any of the major religions, but regard themselves as traditionalists or of no specific religious affiliation.

Freedom of worship is guaranteed by the Constitution, and official policy is one of non-interference in religious practices.

Other Interesting South Africa Travel Information & Facts

  • South Africa has more kinds of wild animals than North and South America, or Europe and Asia, together.
  • The SALT Telescope situated in Sutherland is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and is able to spot a candle flame on the moon.
  • The world's greatest variety of flower-bulbs is found in South Africa.
  • 10% (more than 900) of the world's bird species are found in South Africa.
  • Animal species records: The African elephant is the biggest land based mammal on earth. The giraffe is the tallest animal on earth. The cheetah is the fastest land based mammal in the world. The Eland is the biggest antelope in the world. The ostrich is the biggest bird in the world. The Cori-bustard is the heaviest flying bird in the world. The world's smallest mammal, a shrew the size of a human fingertip is also found in South Africa.
  • The Cape Floral Kingdom is by far the world's smallest (0.04% of earth's surface) but also the richest (8600 species) in flora. 5800 of the species are endemic to the region.
  • South Africa hosts 23000 different plant species, the richest territory in the world in terms of species to area.
  • The biggest wine cellar in the world is the KWV in the Paarl near Cape Town. The cellar covers an area of 24 ha and can store 121 million litres of wine.
  • The deepest mine in the world is the Western Ultra Deep Levels at 5km deep.
  • South Africa has the world's largest reserve of platinum metals (56%), manganese (80%), chromium, (68%) and anadium (45%).
  • South Africa has one of the highest levels of expenditure on education in the world, currently at 20% of GDP.
  • South Africa has the 20th largest economy out of 230 countries in the world, according to gross domestic product measured in US dollars purchasing power parity.
  • South African tap water is now piped into 76% of the country's households, compared to only 23% in 1994.
  • Our banking sector is rated one of the top 10 in the world and our data security is ranked 8th.
 

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Susanne, Hawaii
Now it seems like so long ago we were with you in Cape Town.  Thank you for looking after us so well and for showing us all the beautiful sights.  We had a great time on the safari too and got to see lots of African wildlife.
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