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South Africa Travel Guide - Travel S Helper

South Africa

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South Africa, formally known as the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is Africa’s southernmost country. It is surrounded on the south by 2,798 kilometers of Southern African coastline that stretches along the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans, on the north by Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, and on the east and northeast by Mozambique and Swaziland, and it surrounds the kingdom of Lesotho. South Africa is the world’s 25th-largest country by land area and the world’s 24th-most populous country, with about 53 million inhabitants. It is the southernmost country in the Old World’s or Eastern Hemisphere’s mainland.

It is the only country that has boundaries with both the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Around 80% of South Africans are of Sub-Saharan African descent, split into ethnic groupings that speak several Bantu languages, nine of which have official status. The remaining population is made up of the continent’s largest groups of European (white), Asian (Indian), and mixed (colored) heritage.

South Africa is a multiethnic society with a diverse range of cultures, languages, and faiths. Its diverse nature is reflected in the constitution, which recognizes 11 official languages, the most of any country in the world. Two of these languages are from Europe: Afrikaans evolved from Dutch and is the first language of the majority of white and colored South Africans; English represents the heritage of British colonization and is widely utilized in public and business life, while ranking fourth in terms of spoken first language.

The country is one of the few in Africa that has never had a coup, and regular elections have been conducted for over a century. However, until 1994, the great majority of black South Africans were denied the right to vote. The black majority fought to reclaim its rights from the ruling white minority during the twentieth century, with this fight having a significant part in the country’s recent history and politics. Apartheid was implemented by the National Party in 1948, formalizing earlier racial segregation. From 1990 onwards, after a protracted and often violent fight by the African National Congress and other anti-apartheid campaigners both inside and outside the nation, discriminatory legislation were repealed or eliminated.

Since 1994, all ethnic and linguistic groups in the country’s democracy, which consists of a parliamentary republic and nine provinces, have had political representation. South Africa is sometimes referred to as the “Rainbow Nation” to reflect the country’s newly emerging multicultural variety in the aftermath of apartheid ideology. South Africa is classified as an upper-middle-income economy and a recently industrialized country by the World Bank. It has the second-largest economy in Africa and the 34th-largest in the world. South Africa has the seventh-highest per capita income in Africa in terms of purchasing power parity. Poverty and inequality, however, remain pervasive, with almost a quarter of the population jobless and living on less than US$1.25 per day. Nonetheless, South Africa is regarded as a medium power in international affairs and wields substantial regional power.

South Africa | Introduction

If you want to travel to Southern Africa, South Africa is a good place to start. Although you can travel to any country in Southern Africa, most flights will pass through South Africa. South Africa is also a good place to get used to travelling in the region (although some will say Namibia is better for this). Of course, South Africa is not only a starting point, but also an excellent destination rich in culture, wildlife and history.

Foreigners’ opinions of South Africa are shaped by the same stereotypes as the rest of Africa. Contrary to popular belief, South Africa is not so poor as to be devastating with an unstable government. Although the rural part of South Africa remains one of the poorest and least developed regions in the world, and township poverty can be appalling, progress is being made. The process of recovery from apartheid, which lasted nearly 46 years, is quite slow. In fact, South Africa’s United Nations Human Development Index, which slowly improved during the final years of apartheid, has been declining since 1996, largely due to the AIDS pandemic, and poverty appears to be on the rise. South Africa has a well-developed infrastructure and has all the modern conveniences and technologies, much of which was developed during the years of white minority rule. The government is stable, though corruption is widespread. The government and major political parties generally have a high level of respect for democratic institutions and human rights.

Despite the problems the country currently faces, South Africa remains the strongest economy in Africa and is the only African country in the elite group of major economies in the G-20.

Tourism Offices

South African tourism has a number of offices in other countries. You can contact the office in your country for further information or assistance.Australia, Level 1, 117 York St, Sydney, +61 2 9261-5000, fax: +61 2 9261-2000, e-mail: [email protected]  

  • France, 61 Rue La Boetie, Paris,  +33 1 456-10197, fax: +33 1 456-10196, e-mail: [email protected] 
  • Germany, Friedensstrasse 6-10, Frankfurt,  +49 69 929-1290, fax: +49 69 28-0950, e-mail: [email protected]  
  • Italy, Via XX Settembre 24, 3F, Milano,  +39 2 4391-1765, fax: +39 02 4391-1158, e-mail: [email protected]  
  • Japan, Akasaka Lions Bldg, 1-1-2 Moto Akasaka, Minato-Ku, Tokyo,  +81 33 478-7601, fax: +81 33 478-7605, e-mail: [email protected]  
  • Netherlands, Jozef Israëlskade 48 A, Amsterdam,  +31 20 471-3181, fax: +31 20 662-9761, e-mail: [email protected]  
  • United Kingdom, No 5 & 6 Alt Grove, Wimbledon, London,  +44 20 8971-9350, fax: +44 20 8944-6705, e-mail: [email protected]  
  • United States, 500 Fifth Ave, 20F, Ste 2040, New York,  +1 212 730-2929, fax: +1 212 764-1980, e-mail: [email protected]  

Demographics of South Africa

The South African nation has approximately 55 million inhabitants (2016) of various backgrounds, cultural differences, different languages and religions. The last census took place in 2011. It is estimated that South Africa is home to 5 million illegal immigrants, of whom about 3 million are Zimbabweans. From 11 May 2008, South Africa experienced a series of anti-immigrant riots.

South Africa’s national statistics has asked people to define themselves through the census using 5 different racial population groups. These groups were identified as follows in the 2011 census: Black Africans made up 79.2 %, Caucasians made up 8.9 %, Coloureds made up 8.9 %, Asians made up 2.5 % and Other/unspecified made up 0.5 %. The first census in South Africa in 1911 showed that 22% of the population was white; in 1980 it fell to 16%.

South Africa is home to large numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers. According to the 2008 World Refugee Survey published by the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, the population was approximately 144,700 in 2007. The more than 10,000 refugees and asylum-seekers included persons from Zimbabwe (48,400), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (24,800) and Somalia (12,900). They lived mainly in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. Now many refugees have started to live and work in the rural parts of provinces of Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

Religion in South Africa

According to the 2001 census, Christians made up 79.8% of the population, the majority of whom were members of various Protestant denominations (generally defined as syncretic churches of African origin) and a minority of Catholics and other Christians . Members of other Christian churches made up 36% of the population. 1.5% of the population belonged to Islam, 1.2% to Hinduism, 0.3% to the traditional African religion and 0.2% to Judaism. 15.1% had no religious affiliation, 0.6% had some other affiliation and 1.4% were unspecified.

Churches of African origin form the largest Christian group. It was assumed that many of those who did not profess any organised religion belonged to the African traditional religion. There are an estimated 200,000 indigenous traditional healers in South Africa, and up to 60 per cent of South Africans consult these healers, commonly known as Sangomas or Inyangas. All of these healers combine ancient spiritual beliefs with a strong faith in the medicinal and spiritual powers of the local fauna and flora, known as muti, which they use to facilitate the healing of their clients. Many peoples have syncretic religious practices that combine Christian and indigenous influences.

Muslims in South Africa, who are mainly described as coloured and Indian, have been joined by black and white South African converts, as well as others from other parts of Africa.  South African Muslims claim that their faith is the fastest growing conversion religion in the country. The number of black Muslims has increased six-fold, from 12,000 in 1991 to 74,700 in 2004.

A significant Jewish population is also located in South Africa, which is descended of European Jews who arrived in the country as a minority among other European settlers. This population reached its peak of 120,000 during the 1970s, but currently has only approximately 67,000 people left, while the rest have migrated. Nevertheless, these numbers make South Africa’s Jewish community the twelfth largest in the world.

Ethnic Hindus from India form another important part of the population.

Geography of South Africa

South Africa is located at the southernmost tip of the African continent and has a long coastline of over 2,500 km and stretches along two oceans (the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean). Covering 1,219,912 km2 (471,011 sq mi), South Africa ranks as the 25th largest country in the world and is comparable in size with Colombia. Mafadi in the Drakensberg Mountains is South Africa’s highest mountain at 3,450 m (10,000 ft). With the exception of the Prince Edward Islands, the country lies between latitudes 22° and 35°S and longitudes 16° and 33°E.

The interior of South Africa consists of an extensive plateau, almost flat in most places, with an elevation of between 1,000 m and 2,100 m, highest in the east and gently sloping to the west and north, somewhat less pronounced to the south and southwest.

The southern and southwestern part of the plateau (at about 1100-1800 m above sea level) and the adjoining plain below (at about 700-800 m above sea level – see map on the right) is known as the Great Karoo, which consists of sparsely populated bushveld. To the north, the Great Karoo merges into the even drier and more arid Bushman Land, which eventually turns into the Kalahari Desert in the far north-west of the country. The middle and highest part of the plateau is known as the Highveld. This relatively well-watered area hosts much of the country’s commercial cropland and contains the largest urban area (Gauteng Province). North of the Highveld, from about latitude 25° 30′ south, the plateau descends into the Bushveld, which eventually becomes the Limpopo Lowland or Lowveld.

Moving clockwise from the north-east, the coastal belt below the Great Escarpment is made up of the Limpopo Loveveld, merging into the Mpumalanga Loveveld from below the Mpumalanga Drakensberg Mountains ( an eastern portion of the Great Escarpment).This is hotter, drier and less intensively farmed than the Highveld above the Escarpment. Located in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in north-eastern South Africa, the Kruger National Park covers a large part of the Lowveld, which is 19,633 km2. Southern to the Lowveld, there is an increase in annual rainfall as you move into KwaZulu-Natal Province, where the climate, especially near the coast, is subtropically hot and humid. The international border between KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho is formed by the highest part of the Great Escarpment or Drakensberg, which reaches an altitude of more than 3,000 m. Climate at the foot of this section of the Drakensberg is moderate.

Moving clockwise from the north-east, the coastal belt below the Great Escarpment is formed by the Limpopo Lowveld, merging into the Mpumalanga Lowveld below the Mpumalanga Drakensberg Mountains ( which is the eastern part of the Great Escarpment). (These parallel fold mountain ranges are shown on the map above left. Note the course of the Great Escarpment north of these ranges). Land between two folded mountain ranges to the south (about 400-500 m above sea level) (i.e. between the Outeniqua and Langeberg mountain ranges in the south to the Swartberg mountain range on the north) was known as the Little Karoo, which is composed mostly of semi-desert bushveld that is similar to that of the Great Karoo, with the exception that its northern strip along the foothills of the Swartberg Mountains is somewhat rainier and therefore more cultivated than the Great Karoo. The Klein Karoo is historically and still today famous for its ostrich farming around the town of Oudtshoorn. Lying north of the Swartberg Mountains up to the Great Escarpment, the lowlands (700-800 m above sea level) are part of the Great Karoo, which differ little climatically and botanically from the Karoo region above the Great Escarpment. The narrow coastal strip between the seaward Cape Fold Mountains (i.e. Langeberg-Outeniqua Mountains) to the ocean experiences some moderately heavy rainfall throughout the year, particularly in the George-Knysna-Plettenberg Bay area which is known as the Garden Route. It is famous for having the most extensive virgin forest in South Africa (a country that is generally poorly forested).

In the southwest of the country, the Cape Peninsula forms the southernmost tip of the coastal strip that borders the Atlantic Ocean and eventually ends at the country’s border with Namibia on the Orange River. The Cape Peninsula has a Mediterranean climate, which makes it and its immediate surroundings the only part of sub-Saharan Africa that receives most of its rainfall in winter.

The Cape Town metropolitan area is situated in the Cape Peninsula which is home for approximately 3.7 million people, in accordance to the 2011 census. And it is the country’s legislative capital.

Located in the north of the Cape Peninsula, its coastal belt is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the west and by the first range of the north-south running Cape Fold Mountains to the east. The Cape Fold Mountains end at about 32 degrees south latitude, after which the coastal plain is bounded by the Great Escarpment itself. The most southern section of this coastal range is also known as the Swartland and Malmesbury Plain, an essential wheat-growing area dependent on the winter rains. The region further north is known as Namaqualand, which becomes increasingly dry towards the Orange River. The little rain that does fall here tends to fall in winter, resulting in some of the most spectacular floral displays in the world, covering vast areas of the veldt in spring (August-September).

South Africa also has a possession, the small sub-Antarctic archipelago of the Prince Edward Islands, consisting of Marion Island (290 km2 or 110 sq mi) and Prince Edward Island (45 km2).

Economy of South Africa

South Africa has a mixed economy that is the second largest in Africa after Nigeria. Nevertheless, South Africa is still burdened by relatively high poverty and unemployment rates, and is also among the top ten countries in the world when it comes to income inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient.

Unlike most poor countries in the world, South Africa does not have a thriving informal economy. The informal sector accounts for only 15% of South African jobs, as compared to roughly half in Brazil and India and almost three-quarters in Indonesia. OECD has attributed this difference to the widely used welfare system in South Africa. According to World Bank research, South Africa has some of the largest disparities between its GNP per capita and its Human Development Index ranks, with in fact only Botswana having a larger gap.

After 1994, government policies lowered inflation, stabilized public finances and attracted foreign capital, but growth was still below average. From 2004, economic growth accelerated significantly; both employment and capital formation increased. During Jacob Zuma’s presidency, the government began to strengthen the role of state-owned enterprises. Some of the largest SOEs are Eskom, the electricity monopoly; South African Airways (SAA); and Transnet, the railroad and port monopoly. Some of these SOEs have not been profitable, such as SAA, which required bailouts of 30 billion rand ($2.3 billion) over a 20-year period.

South Africa is a popular tourist destination, and a significant portion of its revenue comes from tourism. Illegal immigrants are involved in informal trade.

South Africa’s major international trading partners include Germany, the United States, China, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Spain, among other African countries.

Agriculture in South Africa generates approximately 10% of the country’s formal employment, which is relatively low in comparison to other parts of Africa. It provides employment to casual workers and contributes about 2.6% to the nation’s GDP. Due to the country’s aridity, only 13.5% can be used for crop production, and only 3% is considered high potential land.

In August 2013, FDi magazine ranked South Africa as the best African country of the future based on economic potential, labor environment, cost efficiency, infrastructure, business friendliness, and foreign direct investment strategy.

The FSI rates South Africa as the 36th safest tax haven in the world, ahead of the Philippines but behind the Bahamas.

HIV/AIDS in South Africa

According to the 2015 UNAIDS report, an estimated 7 million people are living with HIV in South Africa – more than in any other country in the world. A 2008 study found that HIV/AIDS infection in South Africa is significantly divided by race: 13.6% of blacks are HIV positive, while only 0.3% of whites have the disease. Most deaths are experienced by economically active persons, resulting in many AIDS orphans, whose care and financial support in many cases depend on the state.

The link between HIV, a virus that spreads mainly through sexual contact, and AIDS was long denied by President Thabo Mbeki and then-Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who insisted that the many deaths in the country were due to malnutrition and thus poverty. and not HIV. In response to international pressure, the government made efforts to combat AIDS in 2007. After the 2009 general election, President Jacob Zuma appointed Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi as the new minister and committed his government to increasing funding for AIDS treatment and expanding its scope.

How To Get In South Africa

With planeSouth Africa is an important hub for air travel in the Southern African region. The country's flag carrier, South Africa Airways (SAA), has an extensive global and pan-African network of connections, some of which are operated by its short-haul subsidiaries SA Airlink and SA Express.South Africa has 10...

How To Travel Around South Africa

By planeSouth Africa has a well-developed domestic air transport infrastructure with connections between all major centres. There are several daily flights to all major airports in the country. Contact one of the airlines for details. The budget airlines (Kulula, Mango) are usually the cheapest and prices can be compared...

Visa & Passport Requirements for South Africa

People of the following nationality will not need a visa for a period of stay of 90 days or less: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand,...

Weather & Climate in South Africa

South Africa generally has a temperate climate, partly due to the fact that it is surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, that it is in the southern hemisphere, which has a milder climate, and that the average altitude increases steadily northwards (towards the equator) and...

Accommodation & Hotels in South Africa

Businesses in South Africa can be graded on a 5-star basis by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa. Many establishments make use of this service and you will see the star rating on most promotional material.1 star - Clean, comfortable and functional.2 stars - Good: High quality facilities,...

Destinations in South Africa

RegionsGautengPretoria - The administrative capital of the country. Johannesburg is the seat of the provincial government, as well as the economic heart of Africa and the most frequent point of entry into southern Africa.Western Cape - Cape Town, the Mother City, the legislative capital and seat of Parliament, with...

Things To See in South Africa

Every year hundreds of thousands of tourists visit South Africa to discover its numerous natural and cultural attractions. South Africa is a fascinating country full of contrasts and beauty - everything from wild elephants to breathtaking landscapes, cave paintings, colonial heritage and vibrant towns.Wild animals in their natural habitatSouth...

Things To Do in South Africa

Diving,River rafting: The Orange River on the border with Namibia is a popular destination for rafting tours. Several tour operators start 4-6 day trips from Vioolsdrif in inflatable boats with camping under the stars.Rugby union, cricket and football are all popular spectator sports traditionally associated with African, Anglo-South African...

Food & Drinks in South Africa

Food in South AfricaCuisineSouth African cuisine is multicultural, influenced by native British, German, Indian, Malayan, Portuguese and, of course, African influences.Braaivleis, meat roasted over an open wood or charcoal fire, is very popular and is usually done at weekend social events. The act of roasting the meat as well...

Money & Shopping in South Africa

Money in South AfricaA currency is the ZAR (rand), divided into 100 cents (c). The banknotes are available in denominations ranging from R200, R100, R50, R20 and R10.The higher denomination notes are slightly larger than the lower denomination notes. All notes have a metallic security strip and watermark. Note...

Festivals & Events in South Africa

Public holidays in South AfricaDateName1 JanuaryNew Year's Day21 MarchHuman Rights DayThe Friday before Easter SundayGood FridayThe Monday after Easter SundayFamily Day27 aprilFreedom Day1 MayLabour Day16 JuneYouth Day9 AugustNational Women's Day24 SeptemberHeritage Day16 DecemberDay of reconciliation25 DecemberChristmas Day26 DecemberGoodwill Day

Internet & Communications in South Africa

Phone in South AfricaThe country code of South Africa is 27.Telephone numbers within South Africa have the format 0XX YYY ZZZZ.Large cities have area codes of 0XX (Johannesburg is 011, Pretoria 012, Cape Town 021, Durban 031, Port Elizabeth 041, East London 043, Kimberley 053, Bloemfontein 051), while smaller...

Language & Phrasebook in South Africa

There are 11 official languages in South Africa, namely Afrikaans, Southern Ndebele, Xhosa, Zulu, Swazi, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Tswana, Tsonga, Venda and English. The majority of people who are not rural black South Africans speak English as a second language. Only about 8% of the population speaks English...

Traditions & Customs in South Africa

South Africans are generally polite, friendly and courteous towards tourists.Behaviour in public is very similar to what you might find in Europe. Heterosexual expressions of affection in public are not frowned upon unless you overdo it. Homosexual displays of affection can attract unwanted attention, although they are tolerated and...

Culture Of South Africa

South Africa's black majority still has a significant number of rural dwellers who live largely impoverished lives. Among these people, cultural traditions survive most strongly; with the increasing urbanisation and westernisation of black people, aspects of traditional culture have declined. Members of the middle class, who are predominantly white...

History Of South Africa

The tip of Africa has been home to the Khoisan (collective name for Hottentots (Koi) and Bushmen (San)) for thousands of years. Their rock art can still be found in many places in South AfricaAccording to some estimates, the Bantu tribes gradually began to spread into what is now...

Stay Safe & Healthy in South Africa

Stay safe in South AfricaSouth Africa rarely experiences earthquakes, cyclones, tornadoes, floods, terrorist incidents or infectious diseases (except HIV).It is however one of the countries with the highest rates of violent crime in the world. However, if you are vigilant and use common sense, you should have a safe...

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