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South Africa Travel Guide - Travel S Helper

South Africa

travel guide

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Congress and other anti-apartheid campaigners both inside and outside the nation, discriminatory legislation were repealed or eliminated.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.

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South Africa - Info Card




South African rand (ZAR)

Time zone



1,221,037 km2 (471,445 sq mi)

Calling code


Official language

English, Zulu, Swazi, Afrikaans

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].

Weather & Climate

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 further inland. Due to this different topography and oceanic influence, there are a variety of climates. The climate varies considerably from extreme desert in the South of Namib, in the far North-West, to a lush sub-tropical climate on the East, alongside the border area between Mozambique and the Indian Ocean. Winters in South Africa usually last from June to August.

The extreme southwest of the country has a climate very similar to the Mediterranean, with wet winters and hot, dry summers. Much of South Africa’s wine is produced in this region. The region is also particularly known for its wind, which blows irregularly for most of the year. The severity of this wind has made the passage of the Cape of Good Hope particularly dangerous for sailors, causing many shipwrecks. Further east, on the south coast, rainfall is more evenly distributed over the year, creating a green landscape.

The Free State is particularly flat because it lies in the middle of the plateau. North of the river Vaal, the Highveld is more irrigated and does not experience subtropical temperature extremes. Johannesburg, which is located in the Central Highveld, lies 1,740 m above sea level and records an annual rainfall of 760 mm.  Winters in the region can be cold, but snow is rare.

In winter, the high mountains of the Drakensberg, which make up the south-eastern side of the Highveld, offer limited skiing opportunities. On the South African continent, the Sutherland is the coldest place in the western mountains of the Roggeveld, an area where winter temperatures can reach -15°C. The Prince Edward Islands have cooler average annual temperatures, but Sutherland has the coldest extremes. South Africa’s deep interior is the warmest, having a temperature of 51.7°C (51.7°F) recorded at Cape Calahari North near Upington in 1948. However, this temperature is unofficial and has not been measured with standard equipment. The officially recorded temperature at Vioolsdrif was 48.8°C (48.8°F) in January 1993.

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).

Language & Phrasebook

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 as a first language, almost exclusively among the white population, and ironically the proportion of English as a first language is declining, while English is already a common language among South Africans, with about 60% of the population understanding it. South African English is heavily influenced by Afrikaans. Afrikaans is also widely spoken, especially by the majority of whites and people of colour. Often Afrikaans is mistakenly referred to as ‘African’ or ‘Afrikaner’ by foreigners. This is quite incorrect, because for South Africans “Afrikaans” is the same as an indigenous African language. Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, etc. (Of course, there are thousands of languages in Africa, so no one language can be called “Afrikaans”). Afrikaans originated as a Dutch dialect in the 17th century, so Dutch speakers can understand it, and German speakers can sometimes decipher it. Other widely spoken languages are Zulu (mainly in KwaZulu-Natal – South Africa’s largest single language group) and Xhosa (mainly in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape), as well as Sotho and Venda. This changes depending on which region you are in.

A few words you might come across are:

  • eish – as in “eish, it’s hot today”, “eish, it’s expensive” or “eish, it’s too far to drive”.
  • lekker – beautiful, pleasing
  • howzit – what is it like? (usually a rhetorical question)
  • yebo – yes
  • boetbruchina or ou – brother or man (equivalent to dude or bro).
  • koppie – a small hill (can also mean a cup)
  • Madiba – Nelson Mandela
  • Molo – Hello (in Xhosa)
  • Robot – traffic light
  • tannie – (auntie) respectful term for an older woman
  • oom – (uncle) respectful term for an older man
  • Jingle – telephone call
  • right now – sometime soon (from Afrikaans “net-nou”)
  • now now – sooner than just now! (from Afrikaans “nou-nou”, pronounced no-no)
  • braai – barbecue.
  • cheers – is used to say goodbye, but also to say thank you and for the occasional toast.
  • heita – hello
  • sharp – (usually pronounced quickly) OK
  • sure-sure is pronounced more like sho-sho – Correct, agreement, thank you
  • ayoba – a little cool
  • Zebra crossing – a zebra crossing. Named after the white and black stripes that are usually painted on zebra stripes.


In general, English spelling follows British rather than US rules; litre rather than litrecentre rather than centre, etc.

Public holidays in South Africa

Date Name
1 January New Year’s Day
21 March Human Rights Day
The Friday before Easter Sunday Good Friday
The Monday after Easter Sunday Family Day
27 april Freedom Day
1 May Labour Day
16 June Youth Day
9 August National Women’s Day
24 September Heritage Day
16 December Day of reconciliation
25 December Christmas Day
26 December Goodwill Day

Internet & Communications in South Africa

Phone in South Africa

The 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 cities may have longer area codes (e.g. 0XX Y) with shorter city numbers.

When dialling a South African number from outside the country, you should dial +27 XX YYY ZZZZ.

When dialling within the country, you should use all 10 digits, i.e. 0XX YYY ZZZZ.

To dial from South Africa, dial 00 followed by the country code and the rest of the number you want to reach.

Payphones are available at airports, shopping centres and some petrol stations. The number of payphones in public areas has been reduced in recent years, but you should still be able to find one if you need it. Pay phones use either coins or prepaid cards, which are available in most shops and petrol stations; pay phones are usually blue, while card phones are usually green.

GSM in South Africa

South Africa has an extensive GSM network that operates on the same frequency as the rest of Africa and Europe. There are five mobile operators in South Africa: Vodacom, MTN, Cell-C, Virgin Mobile and 8ta.

The networks support GPRS nationwide and also LTE, 3G, EDGE and HSDPA in larger urban areas.

Do not assume that you have no network coverage just because you cannot see a GSM tower. Many of the towers have been built to look like trees (Vodacom) or other structures (MTN) so that they blend in better with their surroundings and do not look like an eyesore. GSM towers still look like towers in some rural areas because when they look like trees there are problems with animals damaging them.

SIM card prepaid starter kits are available for about R1. You will need a passport and proof of residential address to be registered before you can call or receive calls. If you call a Vodacom or MTN branch with a passport and driver’s licence, you can be connected on the spot. You can buy credit for prepaid phones pretty much anywhere, although you usually need cash for it at petrol stations.

Internet in South Africa

There are many internet cafés and access rates are cheap.

Even cheaper and more mobile would be to buy a prepaid mobile phone starter package (less than R10) and go online with GPRS or 3G. Typically, most providers have bundles of data for R2 per MB (Virgin Mobile 50c), but if you buy a data bundle, it gets cheaper. Prices at Vodacom range from 38c per MB for a 500MB bundle to 19c per MB for a 1GB bundle. Prices at MTN range from R1 per MB for a 10MB to 39c per MB for a 1GB package. Mobile data connections are always charged per MB and not per second (as is common in many European networks).

Neotel offers CDMA coverage throughout major city areas with pre-paid options starting at R800 for 24GB (including USB device with data active for 12 months) or R400 for device and R0,20 per MB with purchase of top-up vouchers. Coverage is still limited, so make sure you check the coverage card first.

ADSL1 is popular for residential use and is available in speeds of 384kbit/s, 1Mbit/s and 10Mbit/s. Due to Telkom’s monopoly on last mile infrastructure, operators can simply call 384kbit/s “broadband internet” because there are almost no viable alternatives, and users are usually limited to 1GB to 3GB per month on an account. The average cost of ADSL data is R70/GB.

Wi-Fi in South Africa

AlwaysOn seems to be the pioneer in prepaid Wi-Fi access. AlwaysOn’s hotspots are now available at Cape Town, Durban and O.R. Tambo airports, City Lodge Hotels, Sun International Hotels, some Southern Sun Hotels, Mugg & Bean restaurants and various other locations.

Simply connect to the access point and you will be given the option to pay for access by credit card. Prices start at around R15 for 10 minutes or R60 for 100MB. Support can be contacted on +27 011 759-7300.

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.

Entry Requirements For South Africa

Visa & Passport

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, Norway, Paraguay, Portugal, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zimbabwe. Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania (90 days per 1 year), United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zimbabwe and citizens of the British Overseas Territories.

People of the following nationality will not need a visa for a period of stay of 30 days or less: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Gabon, Guyana, Hong Kong, Hungary, Jordan, Lesotho, Macau, Malaysia, Malawi, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Peru, Poland, Seychelles, Slovakia, South Korea, Swaziland, Thailand, Turkey and Zambia.

Do not turn up without a visa if you need one, as visas are not issued at the points of entry. If necessary, you can extend your visa in South Africa. With an extension, the total length of stay is 6 months. For more information and visa application forms, contact the Department of Home Affairs, tel +27 012 810 8911.

The Department of Home Affairs is notoriously inefficient, so make sure you apply for visas and visa extensions as early as possible. One way to “extend” your visa without going through the Home Affairs disaster is to leave and re-enter South Africa. Note that contrary to popular belief, a 30-day visa cannot be “reset” if you leave and re-enter South Africa via the bordering countries of Lesotho, Swaziland and possibly Namibia and Botswana (although Mozambique is fine). You will then NOT be issued with a new visa. For example, if you have a 30-day visa and leave South Africa and enter Lesotho or Swaziland after 5 days validity and re-enter South Africa after 5 days, you are only allowed to stay in South Africa for 20 days and not 30 days. However, if you fly back to Europe or re-enter South Africa after travelling to Mozambique, a new 30-day visa will be issued.

Make sure you have 2 blank pages back to back in your passport and that it is valid for at least 30 days after your planned departure date, otherwise you will be sent back! Make sure you have a return ticket available or you will be sent back. If you need to collect a ticket at the airport, have the flight number and details ready and speak to the customs officer, they should check your history and let you in (be firm). Be careful if you arrive with a damaged passport as new security measures may hinder your entry.

How To Get In South Africa

Get In - With plane

South 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 international airports. The primary intercontinental hub is O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg; the secondary is Cape Town International. They serve as gateways for tourists and foreign visitors, as well as hubs for travel within South Africa and Southern Africa in general.

Direct flights arrive from the main European centres, including: Amsterdam, Athens, Madrid, London, Paris, Istanbul, Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich and Lisbon. Direct flights are also available from Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha, New York, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Buenos Aires, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Sao Paulo, Singapore, Sydney, Tel Aviv, and Perth. You may also want to take a look at discount airlines in Africa.

All major airports in South Africa used to be state-owned but have been privatised and are now managed by the Airports Company of South Africa. Durban International Airport is the third largest airport. Regular flights to/from: Blantyre, Cairo, Gaborone, Dar es Salaam, Harare, Lilongwe, Livingstone, Luanda, Lusaka, Kinshasa, Maputo, Manzini, Maun, Mauritius, Nairobi, Victoria Falls, Windhoek.

Note: Luggage theft at airports is common, especially at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Therefore, avoid packing valuables such as jewellery and expensive equipment in your main luggage if you can, and put them in your hand luggage.

A real adventure is flying in an old classic airliner. There are some tour operators that offer such flights, mainly in the Gauteng region.

Some popular services are:

  • Cape Town to Gaborone – SA Express Mondays and Fridays
  • Cape Town to Maun – Direct on Monday and Friday
  • Cape Town to Mauritius – Thursday and Saturday with Air Mauritius
  • Cape Town to Walvis Bay – Sunday to Friday on SA Express
  • Cape Town – Windhoek – daily with SA Airlink and Air Namibia
  • Dar es Salaam to Johannesburg – daily with SAA and Air Tanzania
  • Johannesburg to Dar es Salaam – daily with SAA and Air Tanzania
  • Johannesburg to Gaborone – Daily flights with SA Express
  • Johannesburg to Kilimanjaro – Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday with Air Tanzania
  • Johannesburg to Lusaka – daily with SAA
  • Johannesburg to Maputo – Daily flights with SAA or Mozambican airlines.
  • Johannesburg to Mauritius – daily with either SAA or Air Mautirius
  • Johannesburg to Maun – Daily Flights
  • Johannesburg to Maseru – Daily flights with SAA Airlink
  • Johannesburg to Nairobi – daily with either SAA or Kenya Airways
  • Johannesburg to Seychelles – Tuesday and Saturday with Air Seychelles
  • Johannesburg to Swaziland – daily with SA Airlink
  • Johannesburg to Victoria Falls – daily with SAA and BA
  • Johannesburg to Walvis Bay – Sunday to Friday with SA Express
  • Johannesburg to Windhoek – Daily with SAA, BA, Comair, and Air Namibia
  • Johannesburg to Zanzibar – Tuesday and Sunday with SAA. Daily connecting flight via Dar es Salaam.
  • Gaborone to Cape Town – SA Express Mondays and Fridays
  • Gaborone to Johannesburg – Daily flights with SA Express
  • Kilimanjaro to Johannesburg – Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday with Air Tanzania
  • Lusaka to Johannesburg – daily with SAA
  • Maputo to Johannesburg – Daily flights with either SAA or Mozambique Airlines.
  • Maseru to Johannesburg – Daily flights with SAA Airlink
  • Maun to Cape Town – Direct on Thursday and Sunday
  • Maun to Johannesburg – Daily Flights
  • Mauritius to Johannesburg – daily with either SAA or Air Mautirius
  • Mauritius to Cape Town – Thursday and Saturday with Air Mauritius
  • Nairobi to Johannesburg – daily with either SAA or Kenya Airways
  • Seychelles to Johannesburg – Tuesday and Sunday with Air Seychelles
  • Swaziland to Johannesburg – daily with SA Airlink
  • Victoria Falls to Johannesburg – daily with SAA and BA
  • Walvis Bay to Johannesburg – Sunday to Friday with SA Express
  • Walvis Bay to Cape Town – Sunday to Friday on SA Express
  • Windhoek to Johannesburg – daily with SAA, BA, Comair and Air Namibia
  • Windhoek to Cape Town – daily with SA Airlink and Air Namibia
  • Zanzibar to Johannesburg – Tuesday and Sunday with SAA. Daily connecting flight via Dar es Salaam.

Get In - With car

If you are entering from one of the other southern African countries, you can do so by car. A number of land border posts are being operated by South Africa both between itself and its immediate neighbors. Among the most widely used ones are:

Botswana border

  • Skilpadsnek (On the N4, 54 km from Zeerust), +27 18 366-1469. 6AM-10PM.

Border with Lesotho

  • Maseru Bridge (15 km from Ladybrand on the N8 towards Maseru), +27 51 924-4004. Open 24 hours.
  • Ficksburg Bridge (just outside Ficksburg), +27 51 933-2760. Open 24 hours.
  • Sani Pass (in the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg Park), +27 51 430-3664. 8AM-4PM.

Mozambique border

  • Lebombo (on the N4 between Nelspruit and Maputo), +27 13 790-7203. 6am to 10pm.
  • Kosi Bay (R22 btwn Hluhluwe and Ponta do Ouro), +27 35 592-0251. 8am-4pm.

Namibia border

  • Nakop (132 km/82 mi from Upington on the N10 towards Ariamsvlei), +27 54 571-0008. Open 24 hours.
  • Vioolsdrift (on the N7 N of Springbok), +27 27 761-8760. Open 24 hours.

Swaziland border

  • Oshoek (120 km from Ermelo on the N17 towards Mbabane), +27 17 882-0138. 7.00-10.00 AM.

Zimbabwe border

  • Beit Bridge (on the N1 about 16 km/10 mi N of Messina), +27 15 530-0070. Open 24 hours.

Opening hours are often extended during South African public holidays. For a list of ports of entry and more information, please contact South African Border Information Service or +27 086 026-7337.

Get In - With boat

With most of the larger cruise lines, such as Princess Cruises, serving Cape Town as one of their destinations, you may want to try something different.

RMS St Helena. This passenger/cargo ship is the last working Royal Mail Ship and stops in Cape Town on its way to St Helena. It is one of the few remnants from the once great era of ocean liners.

How To Travel Around South Africa

Get Around - By plane

South 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 online. It is also worth comparing with SAA fares as they usually have online specials which in some cases can be cheaper than the ‘low-cost’ airlines.

Get Around - By car


All measurements use the metric system; distances on road signs are in kilometres (1.6 km =1 mi) and fuel is sold in litres (3.8 litres=1 US gallon).

There are basically three ways to buy a car in South Africa: You can rent a car, buy one or use the so-called buy-back option. Renting a car is fairly easy and can be booked online and in all major cities, although you can get better rates by calling some of the smaller providers. Buying a car involves a bit more hassle (road registration, car registration, insurance), but there is a vibrant used car market in South Africa. The third option is a combination of both, as you buy a car with a guarantee that the rental company will buy your car back at the end of the contract.

Most cars in South Africa have a manual transmission and the choice of used automatics can be limited.

Rent a car through South Africa rates vary from US$15 daily to US$200 daily, in accordance with vehicle group, geographic location as well as availability.. The car rental companies have branches throughout South Africa, including in smaller towns and in game reserves and national parks.

Most rental fleets in South Africa have mostly manual transmissions and vehicles with automatic transmissions are limited and tend to be much more expensive. Renting a vehicle with a full no-claims clause (as available in the US) is expensive and hard to find; most agencies only offer reduced liability releases or releases for certain types of damage, such as to glass and tyres. If you plan to drive on unpaved roads in South Africa, check with the rental agency, whether this is permitted for the vehicle you intend to rent and do your own research to determine whether the vehicle(s) offered are suitable for the expected driving conditions.

Rules of the road

In South Africa ( as well as its neighboring countries), driving on the left side of the road.

Be sure to familiarise yourself with and understand South African road signs. South Africa used to use an unusual system of street signage that combined American fonts with English and German design elements. This was problematic because the American fonts were not designed for the long place names typical of Afrikaans. Since 1994, South Africa has adopted a system of street signs that is almost identical to the German system, with appropriate modifications for local conditions (German, like Afrikaans, also has long place names). Although, many of those old signs remain in use even today.

A special type of intersection is the “four-way intersection”, where the vehicle that stops first has the right of way.

You won’t encounter many roundabouts, but when you do, you should be extra careful as the general attitude of South African drivers is that roundabouts are not a traffic-regulating roadway structure. They do not use their turn signals in a safe and predictable manner, if at all.

Some South Africans are notorious for ignoring the speed limit. They tend to engage in selfish or aggressive driving behaviour, such as tailgating and honking. On multi-lane carriageways, the principle of “keep left, pass right” is often disregarded. On two-lane carriageways, cars often overtake slower vehicles in the middle of the carriageway despite oncoming traffic. Cars are expected to move into the hard shoulder as much as possible to allow overtaking in the middle, even in heavy traffic.

Turning left (or right) on red at traffic lights is prohibited. However, you will find traffic lights and “four-way stops” where a right-of-way sign explicitly allows left turns.

Wearing seat belts is compulsory. Occupants in the front seats of a car are required to wear seat belts while driving, and for your own safety, it is recommended that occupants in the back seats do the same. If you are caught without doing so, you will be fined.

The use of mobile phones while driving a vehicle is prohibited. If you must talk on your mobile phone, either use a phone attachment in the vehicle or a hands-free device. Or better still (and safer), pull off the road and stop. NOTE: Only pull off the road at safe places, such as a petrol station. Pulling over and stopping at the side of the road can be dangerous. Most petrol stations are open around the clock.


Traffic accident frequency is high in South Africa. You should drive extra carefully at all times, especially at night in urban areas. Watch out for unsafe drivers (minibus taxis), poor lighting, cyclists (many of whom do not seem to know the “left-hand traffic” rule) and pedestrians (who are the cause of many accidents, especially at night). South African pedestrians generally tend to be quite aggressive, like pedestrians from some southern European countries, and you need to watch out for pedestrians who step into traffic and expect you to stop or avoid them.

You will also encounter a great many people walking along or across the motorways simply because it is the quickest way on foot to their destination and they cannot afford a car. Watch out for South Africa’s notorious taxi and minibus drivers who sometimes even stop on the freeways to pick up or drop off passengers.

When driving outside the big cities, you will often encounter animals, wild and domestic, on or beside the roadway. Most of the locals have a tendency to graze their cows and goats nearby the road. If you see an animal on or beside the road, slow down as they are unpredictable. Do not stop to feed wild animals!

If you are waiting at a red light late at night in an area where you do not feel safe, you could cross the red light (illegally) after first carefully checking that there is no other traffic. If you receive a traffic light camera fine, you can sometimes get it waived by writing a letter to the traffic department or the court explaining that you crossed the light safely and on purpose for safety reasons. The fact remains that you have, for whatever reason, broken the law. Do not make a habit of this.

When you stop at traffic lights at night, always leave enough space between your car and the car in front of you so that you can drive around it. Boxing up a car is a common hijacking technique.This is especially common in the suburbs of Johannesburg.

As far as possible, and especially when driving in urban areas, try not to have any objects visible in the car – keep them out of sight in the glove compartments or the boot. That applies as well, and it even applies more when you park your car. It is also considered safe practice to drive in urban areas with car windows closed and doors locked. These simple precautions make things less attractive to potential thieves and criminals.

As in any other country, you should always be alert when driving. The safest thing to do is to drive defensively and assume that the other driver is about to do something stupid / dangerous / illegal.

Road system

Speed limits are usually clearly indicated. As a rule, the speed limits are 120 km/h on motorways, 100 km/h on main roads outside built-up areas, 80 km/h on main roads inside built-up areas and 60 km/h on normal city roads. But be careful – in some areas the speed limits indicated can change suddenly and unexpectedly.

Roads within South Africa, connecting most major cities, and between immediate neighbouring countries are very good. There are many national and regional roads connecting cities and major centres, including the N1, which runs from Cape Town to Harare, Zimbabwe, via Johannesburg and Pretoria; the N2, which runs from Cape Town to Durban and passes through the world-famous Garden Route at Knysna; and the N3 between Durban and Johannesburg.

Some sections of the national roads are two-lane limited access highways (the N3 between Johannesburg and Durban is almost continuously a highway) and some sections are also toll roads with emergency call boxes every few kilometres. Toll roads usually have two or more lanes in each direction.

The major fuel companies have rest stops every 200-300 km along these motorways where you can refuel, eat at a restaurant, buy takeaways, shop or just stretch your legs. The toilets at these facilities are well maintained and clean. The majority ( although not all ) have ATMs at these rest stops as well.

Some main roads have only one lane in each direction, especially away from urban areas. On such roads, it is customary to flash your hazard lights only once if a truck or other slow-moving vehicle turns onto the hard shoulder (usually indicated by yellow lines).This is seen as a thank you and you will most likely receive a “My Pleasure” response in the form of a single flash of the slow vehicle’s headlights. Remember that it is both illegal and dangerous to drive on the hard shoulder – although many people do.

In many rural areas you will find unpaved “gravel roads”. Most of them are perfectly suitable for a normal car, although reduced speed might often be advisable. Special care is required when driving on these roads, especially if you encounter other traffic – broken windscreens and lights caused by flying stones are not uncommon.

Even though it is not yet mandatory, more and more drivers are driving with their headlights on. This significantly increases visibility for other road users.

Petrol stations

The petrol stations offer a full service with unleaded petrol, lead substitute petrol and diesel. The petrol attendants offer to wash your windscreen and check your oil and water, in addition to just filling up your car. It is customary to tip the petrol attendant about R5 – if you don’t have change, fill up with e.g. R195 and let the attendant keep the change, it’s a polite idea. Most fuel stations operate 24 hours a day.

If you plan to use these two highways, it is advisable to avoid the two days after school closes and the two days before school starts. School holiday calendars for South Africa can be found here. [www]

There is usually a motorway customer service line on the N3 at 0800 203 950 during peak hours, which can be used to enquire about faults, accidents and general route information. Current tolls, road and traffic conditions can also be found on the N3 website [www].

Historically, South African petrol stations were cash only, which was and still is stated in many guidebooks. After a period when petrol stations only accepted their own credit cards, the government authorised the acceptance of major credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard in 2009. Since 2011, some smaller petrol stations only accept cash, but most petrol stations accept major credit cards. So you don’t need to carry large amounts of cash to pay for fuel, unless you are absolutely sure you need to buy fuel in a rural area that does not yet support credit cards.

The law

Law enforcement (speeding and other violations) is usually done through portable or stationary, radar or laser cameras. Local police forces, especially in rural areas, focus much of their efforts on fining motorists (to generate revenue, not to improve road safety). If you see an oncoming car flashing its lights, it is likely to warn you of an impending speed camera that it has just passed. Portable radar and laser systems that are not cameras are also used and you may be stopped for speeding (or other offences) and receive a written penalty notice. Fines can be sent to the registered address of the vehicle you are driving, but it is also common to pay fines on the spot. Usually the police officer will hold your licence while you go to the local police station to pay the fine, you get a receipt and drive back to where you were stopped, hand the receipt to the police officer and get your licence back – this can take a good hour or more, which can be a bigger hassle than the R400 fine.

In general, the police are quite honest, but they respond to politeness and respect for their authority. If you are stopped by a traffic policeman, he may ask you for a rather ridiculous piece of paperwork (a letter from the ministry…. the car’s roadworthiness certificate…) and that you will get into a lot of trouble if you don’t have it – be firm, cool and friendly and explain that you understand that you only need a driving licence etc. Generally, police officers want an easy life and don’t feel like arguing for a long time if they think you won’t “tip”.

South Africa does not currently have a merit system and does not exchange information on traffic violations with other nations.

Admission requirements

If your driver’s licence is issued in one of South Africa’s 11 official languages (e.g. English) and a photograph and your signature are included in the licence document, then it is legally acceptable as a valid driver’s licence in South Africa. However, some car rental companies and insurance companies may still insist that you present an international driving licence.

It is generally best practice to obtain an international driving licence in your country of origin before you start your journey, whether or not your licence is legal.
Be aware that the police may ask for a bribe (between R200 and R600) if you present
a foreign driving licence . Do not pay it, ask for and show the name and ID number.

Get Around - By bus

There are scheduled bus services between Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and other cities (with intermediate stops), as well as services to neighbouring countries. The main bus companies are:

Bookings for the above events can also be made via Computicket.

Smaller services are City Bug and Lowveld Link.

An alternative is the Baz Bus . It offers a regular hop-on hop-off service on some of the most interesting routes for tourists (Cape Town to Durban via the Garden Route; Durban to Johannesburg via the Drakensberg). Baz Bus picks you up and drops you off at many hostels along the route, so you don’t have to hang around a downtown bus stop at night.

If you are really in a pinch, you can use minibus taxis. They are poorly maintained and rarely meet safety standards. They also require patience as they make many detours and change at the taxi rank (hub) where the driver waits for passengers to fill up the bus. However, they cover many routes that are not covered by the main bus services and are considerably cheaper (25 cents per mile per person on the main routes).

Warning: Many buses are taken out of service by the police because they are not roadworthy. Get up-to-date advice on which companies are more reputable. Occasionally the ride can be quite wild, and if you are prone to motion sickness, be prepared.

Get Around - By train

PRASA (Passenger Rail Association of South Africa) [www] is the national rail operator. There is an established budget passenger service between the major cities of South Africa  (known as ShosholozaMeyl) and luxury services (known as PremierClasse) between Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.

Central reservations (Shosholo Zamele and Premier Class) can be made by contacting:

To book tickets, call Central Reservation on one of the numbers above and make your booking. You can collect and pay for your tickets later at any station.

There are also local trains in major cities (Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London) ; these are operated by MetroRail. Most services are perfectly safe, but certain routes are crowded and not always safe.

Middle class


  • Blue Train, +27 12 334-8459, email: [email protected]. This world-famous luxury train runs between Pretoria and Cape Town, with a stopover in Kimberley. It advertises itself as a “five-star hotel on wheels” and charges accordingly: prices for 2009 start at R9,215 per person one-way (in low season in a “deluxe” double room) and rise to a whopping R18,405 (in high season in a “luxury” single room). The trip lasts 27 hours and includes a private suite with bathroom and full board ( with the exception of champagne and caviar).
  • RovosRail, +27 12 315-8242. Offers luxury rail tours of Southern Africa. Destinations include Cape Town, Pretoria, Durban, George, Swakopmundin Namibia, Vic Falls in Zimbabwe and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

Get Around - Hitchhiking

Hitchhiking in South Africa is not that difficult, but most people will think you are taking a ride in the local taxis and therefore expect you to pay. You might want to tell them that you are looking for a free ride before you board. The main problem is crime: some drivers might hijack you and your belongings. Hitchhiking is generally frowned upon and considered unsafe. Drivers are also suspicious of potentially criminal hitchhikers. Never hitchhike at night. It is unwise to be out at night if you are in an area that is considered unsafe. Remember that most middle-class houses are protected with walls and armed guards; they have this for a reason.

Get Around - By bike

Cycling is probably the best way to experience the country as you can really admire the views and get the chance to mingle with the locals. While it might be considered unsafe to cycle through the cities due to crime and reckless drivers, there are many farm/gravel roads throughout South Africa. Locals and farmers are usually willing to provide you with food and a place to sleep as long as you are willing to talk.

Destinations in South Africa

Regions in South Africa

  • GautengPretoria – 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 famous landmarks like Table Mountain and the Cape of Good Hope. The Winelands near Stellenbosch, the Whale Coast along the Overberg, Agulhas where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet and the Cape Floral Region. The Garden Route, one of the top travel destinations, runs along the south coast from Mossel Bay to Port Elizabeth, with towns like Knysna and the ostrich capital Oudtshoorn.
  • Eastern Cape – The rest of the Garden Route, known as the Tsitsikamma. The former homelands, the Wild Coast, spectacular coasts without the tourist crowds. Beautiful beaches in Port Elizabeth, East London and Jeffreys Bay, the surfing mecca of South Africa. Great parks like the Addo Elephant National Park and the Tsitsikamma National Park.
  • Northern Cape – Capital Kimberley, famous because of its diamonds as well as the ‘Big Hole’. Largest province with the fewest inhabitants, Upington is the second largest city, a good starting point to explore the Kalahari Desert, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and the Augrabies Falls on the Orange River. Also Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park and the semi-desert Karoo.
  • Free State – Capital Bloemfontein, which also houses the Supreme Court of Appeal, the highest court in non-constitutional matters (the Constitutional Court has been in Johannesburg since 1994). The World Heritage Site Vredefort Dome, remains of the largest and oldest meteorite impact crater.
  • KwaZulu Natal – Durban, the biggest town in the province as well as the 3rd largest in South Africa and a preferred vacation spot of South Africans along the coast. The Drakensberg Mountains if you like hiking and also the Tugela Falls, the second highest waterfall in the world.
  • Northwest – Rustenburg, known for Sun City and the Pilanesberg Game Reserve.
  • Mpumalanga – Capital Nelspruit, gateway to Mozambique and southern part of the Kruger National Park. The Drakensberg escarpment with Blyde River Canyon is the world’s 3rd largest canyon.
  • Limpopo – Capital Polokwane (formally known as Pietersburg) a good starting point for visits to the northern parts of the Kruger National Park and Zimbabwe.

Cities in South Africa

  • Pretoria – is the administrative capital
  • Cape Town – is the legislative capital and seat of Parliament. It is one of the world’s largest cities, named for its proximity to the Cape of Good Hope. It is also a stone’s throw from South Africa’s vineyards. Nestled between the sea and Table Mountain, it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and a popular summer destination for both domestic and international tourists.
  • Bloemfontein – Seat of the Supreme Court of Appeal, the highest court in non-constitutional matters. The Constitutional Court in Johannesburg became the highest court for constitutional matters in 1994.
  • Durban – Largest city in KwaZulu-Natal, third largest in South Africa and a popular holiday destination for South Africans on the coast.
  • Johannesburg – The economic heart of Africa and the most frequent entry point to Southern Africa.
  • Polokwane – capital of Limpopo (formally known as Pietersburg) and a good starting point for visits to the northern parts of the Kruger National Park and Zimbabwe.
  • Port Elizabeth – coastal town in the Eastern Cape with the nearby Addo Elephant National Park.
  • Kimberley — capital of the Northern Cape Province. Famous for its diamonds and “Big Hole”.
  • Upington – This town is situated in the arid Northern Cape Province and is a good base for exploring the Kalahari Desert and the many national parks located in the Northern Cape.

Other destinations In South Africa

National Parks

For people interested in the natural history, South Africa is a paradise. In parks, on farms, in private reserves and even on the roads, you can encounter a variety of species (some potentially dangerous and endangered).

  • Kruger National Park is a very popular tourist destination that has been exceptionally well-managed.
  • Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the heart of the Kalahari Desert with wide open spaces and hordes of wildlife, including the majestic “gemsbok”. This is the first park in Africa to cross political boundaries.
  • There are also a large number of smaller parks, such as Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park, Addo Elephant National Park, Marakele National Park, Pilanesberg National Park or iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

There are walking trails in almost all parks and around geographical points of interest.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

  • The Cradle of Humankind near Johannesburg is a must-see for anyone interested in where it all began. A large collection of caves rich in fossils of hominids and advanced apes.
  • Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for many years.
  • The Cape Floral Region in the Western Cape
  • iSimangaliso Wetland Park
  • Mapungubwe Kingdom in the North West
  • The Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape in the Northern Cape
  • Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park for its scenery, incredible biodiversity and rock art.
  • Vredefort Dome, remains of the largest and oldest meteorite impact crater.

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, service and guest care.
  • 3 stars – Very good: Better facilities, service and guest care.
  • 4 Stars – Superior: It offers excellent comfort and a very high standard of furnishing, quality service and guest care.
  • 5 Stars – Exceptional: First-class quality and luxurious accommodation that meets the best international standards. Impeccable service and guest care.

Backpacker lodges

Backpacking lodges or hostels are common throughout the country. Most establishments offer cheap tours and activities in the areas. There is a large transport network in the country, making it suitable for solo travellers and younger travellers. Some lodges offer meals, especially in the more remote areas. Most rooms have self-catering facilities and shared bathrooms, although en-suite bathrooms are also common.


Bed-and-breakfast accommodation is becoming increasingly popular. Accommodation is usually in a (private) family home and the owner/manager lives in the house or on the property. Breakfast is usually served. The bathroom may be en-suite. The guest usually shares the public areas with the host family.


Houses, cottages, chalets, bungalows, flats, studios, flats, villas, houseboats, tents or similar accommodation with facilities and equipment for guests to prepare their own meals. (This may include a refrigerator, oven, cooker, microwave, etc.). The facilities should be sufficient for the maximum advertised number of residents that the facility can accommodate.

Guest house

A guest house is a house or manor house which has been modified to accommodate guests, although it can also be a purpose built facility. A guest house is run as a commercial enterprise and is often owner-managed. A guest house has areas exclusively for the use of the guest. The owner/manager lives either outside the house or in a separate area within the property.

Camping and caravanning

You can find caravan parks in most towns that are holiday destinations. Most caravan parks also offer campsites where you can pitch a tent (check, as sometimes tents are excluded).

The parks usually have central sanitary facilities.


There are many timeshare resorts in South Africa, most of which participate in international exchange agreements. Many timeshare owners also rent out their time when they cannot use it.


A number of South African Estate agencies also provide a rental service. The rental properties are mostly available as unfurnished long-term rentals, but you will also find furnished properties on offer with leases from 1 to 12 months

Your local branch of an international real estate agent with a presence in South Africa may also be able to help.

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 habitat

South Africa is the world’s most popular safari destination and for many visitors, a glimpse of the Big Five and other wildlife is a must. The iconic Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga is certainly the most famous place to catch this view, but Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape is another popular choice. The vast arid plains of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, with its migrating herds of wildebeest, stretch across parts of South Africa and Botswana. A completely different landscape and wildlife can be found in the Imangaliso Wetland Park, which is another transboundary park located along the border with Mozambique. For divers, South Africa’s underwater world has much to offer, with the annual sardine run a highlight. The popular coastal town of Hermanus is probably the best place in the world for whale watching, and for the truly adventurous, there is the option of cage diving with great white sharks.

Areas of natural beauty and botanical interest

South Africa’s landscapes are magnificent and diverse, varying from flat desert bushland to lush green coastal areas and high peaks. The view from the famous, flat-topped Table Mountain is a classic African experience. The beautiful beaches in the Cape Town region also attract thousands of sun worshippers. The green coastal road Garden Route is a great nature experience, passing countless lagoons, several interesting towns and the beautiful Tsitsikamma National ParkAugrabies Falls National Park offers a 60m high waterfall. Close to the Kruger Park is the Blyde River Canyon, the largest green canyon in the world, and not far away are the high peaks of the Drakensberg Mountains. The Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park is one of the country’s 8 Unesco World Heritage Sites for its outstanding natural beauty and the many cave paintings found there.

Cultural heritage

A large number and some of the oldest hominid fossils have been found in South Africa, especially in the Cradle of Humankind, another World Heritage Site. Important fossils have been found in over 30 different caves, but the Sterkfontein Caves are perhaps the most important in this location. Far more recent is the 17th century Castle of Good Hope in beautiful Cape Town, one of the heritage sites from the colonial era. Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was famously imprisoned, has become an important destination. For more insights into the apartheid era, visit the District Six Museum in Cape Town or the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg.

Other attractions

  • Although regularly criticised, visits to the notorious townships are becoming increasingly popular. Some say such trips turn poverty into entertainment, while others think they benefit everyone involved. Either way, a township tour is an experience that sticks. Soweto, in Johannesburg, is particularly well known.
  • South Africa has gained world fame as a wine country and if you are interested, a visit to one of the over 800 wineries can be a great addition to your trip. In the Cape Winelands around Stellenbosch you will find some of the best deals.

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 and black South African culture respectively, although this has changed in recent years and the Springboks (rugby union national team) has had many black fans at least since the 1995 World Cup held in South Africa, which South Africa won with Nelson Mandela (the then president) in a Springbok jersey.

Food & Drinks in South Africa

Food in South Africa


South 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 as the social event is called a braai.
  • Pap, a porridge made with maize flour. Slappap (liquid porridge), is soft and often eaten as breakfast porridge, stywepap (stiff porridge) has a doughy and rather lumpy consistency and is often used as a substitute for rice or other starches. “Krummel” porridge, also called umphokoqo (crumbly porridge), is drier, resembles couscous and is often served at a braai with a saucy tomato and onion sauce called sous.
  • Potjiekos, a meat and vegetable stew prepared in a cast-iron pot over an open fire. A favourite at Braais.
  • Boerewors, a spicy sausage. Boerewors Rolls are hot dog buns with boerewors instead of hot dogs, traditionally garnished with an onion and tomato relish.
  • Biltong and droëwors, are meat or sausages which are seasoned that have been dried. Frequently used with beef, game as well as ostrich meat. Popular at sporting events and while travelling.
  • Bunny chows, which are half breaded and packed with either lamb or beef curry instead, is a dish not to be missed on a trip to KwaZulu-Natal.
  • Bobotie, meatloaf with Cape Malay influence, flavoured with curry and spices, topped with a savoury pudding.
  • Morogo, a wild spinach alone or with potatoes. Sometimes served with porridge.
  • Waterblommetjiebredie, mutton and local water lily stew.
  • Masonja, deep-fried mopani worms for the culinary adventurer.
  • Melktert, “milk cake”, a milk-based dessert.
  • Koeksisters, a deep-fried sticky dessert.
  • Vetkoek, deep-fried dough ball made of flour, served with apricot jam.

Fast food

You will find the usual selection of international fast food places. McDonaldsKFCDomino’s Pizza and Wimpy are well represented throughout the country.

Notable local franchises of note include Black Steer, Spur and Steers which have the best burgers, and Nando’s peri-peri for chicken.

Pizza delivery is available in most urban areas, with food being ordered online from places like Domino’s Pizza and Debonairs.


Almost every restaurant and even bar were declared as ” smoke-free zones “. In some restaurants you will find a special smoking area where children are not allowed. As a rule of thumb, look for an ashtray on your table. However, you will most likely be greeted with a “smoking or non-smoking” sign at the door of the establishment. Check this as smoking is not allowed in non-designated areas and you may be met with some rude gestures.

Drinks in South Africa

Municipal tap water is usually safe to drink. In some areas, such as the Hartebeespoort Dam, it is advisable to boil the water before drinking.

Milk is available in most supermarkets, but bottled orange juice that has not been reconstituted from concentrate is much, much harder to find than in North America. Most South African retailers only stock orange juice that has been reconstituted from concentrate, or orange juice that has been mixed with other juices or milk. However, soft drinks such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi are widely available.

The legal age for buying and drinking alcohol in South Africa is 18. Almost all restaurants have a licence to serve alcohol.

When Witblits or Mampoer are offered; these are distilled locally under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture and are licensed to produce. They are safe and enjoyable to consume and do not resemble the names for moonshine or firewater. The alcohol content is controlled by the Ministry, as is the quality.


Among the most popular brands in local beer production are SABMiller, with Castle, Hansa, Black Label and Castle Milk Stout. There are also microbreweries all over South Africa. A number of imported beers including Stella Artois and Grolsch and many others is also widely available. Namibian Windhoek brand beers are also popular and widely available.

Prices can vary greatly depending on the pub. Expect to pay between R7 and R18 for a beer.


South Africa has a well-established wine industry. Most wine is produced in the Cape Winelands in the Western Cape and along the Orange River in the Northern Cape. There is plenty of wine available all over the country and at very low prices.


Amarula Cream is made from the marula fruit. The marula fruit is a favourite treat for African elephants, baboons and monkeys and in liqueur form is definitely not something to be missed. Pour over crushed ice and enjoy. The taste, colour and consistency are very similar to the world famous Baileys Irish Cream. Cape Velvet is a particular popular choice in and around Cape Town.

Tea and coffee

The local rooibos tea, made from an herb found in the Cederberg Mountains, is a favourite for many South Africans. You will find coffee shops in most shopping centres, such as Mugg&Bean and House of Coffees. Coffee shops with a similar concept to Starbucks, such as Seattle Coffee Company and Vida e Caffe (with a Portuguese theme), are becoming more commonplace.

Money & Shopping in South Africa

Money in South Africa

A 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 that a new series of banknotes was introduced in 2012 and currently both the old and new series are in circulation and legal tender.

The coins have denominations of R5, R2, R1, 50c, 20c, 10c and 5c. Production of 2c and 1c coins ceased in 2002, although the coins still in circulation remain legal tender. All transactions would be rounded up with the next smaller 5c in order to avoid a need for 2c or 1c coins. Remember there are two different types of R5 coins available in circulation: one is a silver coin while the other is a silver bronze coin. They are both legal tender.

South Africa is part of the Common Monetary Area of Southern Africa and the rand can be used in Namibia (where the rand and the Namibian dollar are the official currency), Lesotho and Swaziland (where the rand is widely accepted, but not the official currency).

Traveller’s cheques are a safe way to carry money. You can exchange them at any bank (which are all over the country, even in rural areas) and you will be reimbursed if they are stolen. The disadvantage is that you can’t pay with them and need change when you exchange them for rands. Use ATMs instead, if possible.

 (ATMs), which are connected to all major international networks, are available throughout the country and usually dispense money in a mixture of denominations between R200 and R10, with about 80% of the value requested being high-value notes and the rest in smaller denominations. You can use any Cirrus or Maestro card, as well as all major credit and debit cards at the ATMs. South African banks’ ATMs do not charge any fees beyond those charged by your own financial institution.

It is best to only use ATMs that are located in a shopping centre or other building. Always make sure that no one is watching you enter your PIN and be alert to scams (e.g. machines that seem to eat your card and do not give it back after you enter the PIN). Do not accept help from strangers when withdrawing money from an ATM. If you are approached and offered unwanted help, it is better to cancel the transaction immediately and go to another ATM. The cash registers of some larger retail outlets (e.g. Pick ‘n Pay) also function as ATMs; just tell the cashier that you want to withdraw money.

VISA and MasterCard are accepted almost everywhere. American Express and Diners Club which are also accepted, although not so widely.

Most retail outlets accept credit cards and pin-based debit cards as payment methods. Although South Africa has started to move towards a chip-and-PIN credit card system like in Europe, most shops still operate on the traditional credit card system, where the user simply signs the receipt after the transaction has been authorised. Therefore, credit card users from countries that also still use this system (such as the USA) will have no problems using their credit cards in South Africa, provided they have informed their bank in advance of their travel plans.

Value Added Tax (VAT) is levied on almost all products in South Africa at 14%. By law, advertised prices should include VAT unless specifically stated otherwise. Foreign passport holders can reclaim VAT on products purchased in South Africa and brought out of the country, provided the total value of the goods exceeds R250. Detailed information on the procedure to follow is available from the Department of Foreign Affairs and on their new website TAX Refund for tourists [www]. The VAT Refund Administrator’s offices are located both in Johannesburg (O.R. Tambo) and at Cape Town International Airport. Refunds are credited to a Travelex Visa card that you receive. It is issued in US dollars or Euros, the conversion fees associated with this card may result in you receiving up to 10% less than you thought. The cards can only be used outside South Africa.

Prices in South Africa

Petrol and diesel

Liquid fuel prices in South Africa are regulated and set monthly by region. Generally, fuel near the ports (Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth) is cheaper.

Toll roads

The most expensive toll booth in South Africa is the Swartruggens toll booth on the N4 between Swartruggens and Zeerust, costing R71 for a normal car. Overall, the toll costs just under R100 between Pretoria and Nelspruit or between Johannesburg and Cape Town. If you drive from Beitbridge to Cape Town on the N1, you can expect to pay up to R270.

Shopping in South Africa

Prices in shops are fixed, but prices at open markets or street vendors are open to barter.

South Africa is not a place where you can find bargains for most goods. For example, most ordinary consumer goods, electronics and appliances are now all made in China, while most luxury goods are made in Europe. This means that built into prices in South Africa is the cost of transporting them there. However, South Africa is an excellent destination for buying African art, curios and souvenirs, which are much harder to come by outside of Africa.

Tipping in South Africa

Tipping is the norm in restaurants. In fact, most of these establishments pay their staff the legal minimum wage and rely on customers’ tips to bring the staff’s income to a living wage level. Tips of around 10 % of the bill are considered normal.

A small amount, usually around R5, is occasionally given to petrol pump attendants for additional services, such as cleaning the windscreen. Toilet cleaners at petrol stations on main roads are sometimes tipped if they provide a good service and keep the facilities clean. “Car guards” who claim to “look after” the parked car are often given a small tip if they are uniformed and authorised; however, those without uniforms are usually considered a nuisance and tipping is not compulsory, although they often harass motorists who demand payment.

The 10 % tipping rule also applies when you take a taxi. Since most taxis only use cash, it is better to ask how much you have to pay for the ride before you get in. This way you make sure you always have enough to tip the driver.

Finally, when checking into your hotel, it is customary to also tip your porter. The generally accepted rule is to give them R5 per piece of luggage they handle.

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 respected in the more gay-friendly and cosmopolitan areas of Johannesburg (Sandton, Rosebank and Parkhurst), Cape Town (Greenpoint, Clifton and De Waterkant) and Durban. South Africa is the first and only African nation where the government recognises same-sex relationships and homosexual marriages are legally recognised.

Men usually greet each other with a firm handshake, while women will give the continental kiss on the cheek.

Except on designated beaches, nude sunbathing is illegal, although topless sunbathing is permitted for women on Durban and Umhlanga beaches and on Clifton and Camps Bay beaches in Cape Town. Thong bikinis for women and swimming trunks for men (Speedos if you really must) are acceptable. Restaurants are casual unless otherwise stated.

Eating is usually done the British way with the fork in the left hand, with the tines pointing down. Burgers, pizzas, bunny chows and other fast food are eaten with the hand. It is also generally acceptable to steal a piece of boerewors from the braai with your hands. Depending on which culture you are in, these rules may change. Indians usually use their hands to eat Bureyani dishes, British whites often insist on eating pizza with a knife and fork, while blacks sometimes eat pup-and-stew using a spoon. Be flexible, but don’t be afraid to do your own thing too; if it’s really unacceptable, people will usually tell you rather than take offence.

South Africans are proud of their country and what they have achieved. Although they themselves are quick to point out and complain to each other about the problems and shortcomings that still exist, they will sharply rebuff any outsider who does so.

One thing you need to understand is that South Africans are very straightforward. If you do or say something that offends a South African, they will tell you in a very direct way. So don’t be offended if that happens, just apologise and change the way you do things so that you don’t offend other people.


Those more accustomed to North American racial terminology should understand that words that are familiar to them have different meanings in South Africa, and the rules for what terms are or are not polite are different. Also note that there are many South Africans who consider classification by skin colour or appearance in general, whether for political or social reasons, to be inappropriate and would prefer to be referred to simply as South Africans, regardless of what you think they look like.

  • If you want to refer to South Africans of exclusively African descent, “black” (the term used under apartheid) is still considered appropriate by some. It might help to practice identifying specific language groups – Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, etc. Most urban blacks are also able to speak English in addition to their mother tongue, although English proficiency may be limited in rural areas.
  • The term “coloured” refers to a mixed-race cultural group with white and African ancestry from the early colonial period – and who typically speak Afrikaans and live mainly in the Western Cape, although some of these people reject the term and simply call themselves black. In general, the term does not have such a negative connotation as it does in the US or UK. Coloured can be used incorrectly to describe people who would consider themselves either black or white and should therefore be used with caution. Not every person of supposedly ‘mixed’ heritage will necessarily consider themselves ‘coloured’ in the cultural sense and may not identify as such; a well-known example is comedian Trevor Noah, who was born to a white Swiss man and a black Xhosa woman during apartheid. During apartheid, the group of “coloured people” also included the ethnic Chinese community.
  • White South Africans can be referred to simply as “white” or “white South African”. The mother tongue of white South Africans is either Afrikaans (derived from Dutch) or English, so there are Afrikaans and English-speaking South Africans. Almost all white South Africans can speak English, even if their mother tongue is Afrikaans, because trade and entertainment are predominantly conducted in English, while English-speaking South Africans often speak Afrikaans or one of the African languages as a second language. This is especially true for the younger generation. Typical white South Africans consider themselves as “African” as those born in the United States consider themselves “American”; most have family that has lived in South Africa for centuries, and the only continent they can call home is Africa. Avoid calling Africans “Dutch” or “Boers”, both of which are considered derogatory and insulting, or Afrikaans “kitchen Dutch”, as they are very independent and proud of their language and do not consider themselves Dutch. Although the term “white” is primarily used for people of European descent, during apartheid it also included Japanese.
  • The fourth racial category left over from the apartheid system is “Indian” (from India) and refers to people whose ancestors came from India during the British colonial period. The largest Indian populations are in KwaZulu-Natal, especially around Durban.
  • There is also a small community of Cape Malays, mainly based in the Bo Kaap area of Cape Town. They are descendants of slaves brought over from what is now Malaysia and Indonesia during the colonial period. Although the majority of them are still Muslim, they no longer speak the Malay language and mainly speak either Afrikaans or English.

In summary:

  • Black – the majority of South Africans – of Bantu origin. The three most populous groups are Xhosa (Eastern & Western Cape), Zulu (KwaZulu-Natal) and Sotho (Free State).
  • White – can be divided into Afrikaans speakers (the majority), and English speakers.
  • Coloured – Afrikaans-speaking mixed race, concentrated in the Western Cape.
  • Indian – concentrated around Durban.
  • Malay – Muslims in the Bo Kaap area of Cape Town

It is advisable to avoid making racist or political remarks during your stay in South Africa unless you have a good understanding of South African history, as the very different cultural make-up of the country means that it is easy to “put your foot in your mouth”. However, you will meet many South Africans who lived through the apartheid era and are willing to talk about their experiences from that time. It can be very interesting to talk to them about their experiences and if you have an open mind and a willingness to listen, you can avoid insults.

South Africa is now in its third decade since the end of apartheid (a very sensitive issue for all) in 1990, but it is always easier to change laws than people. You will still occasionally hear openly racist remarks, from every racial group in South Africa, not just white South Africans. This is more common among the older generation than the younger. It is best to just ignore them; leave the responsibility for enlightening lectures to other South Africans who know the subject better than any foreign traveller because they have experienced it. South Africans of different races generally treat each other politely on a personal level. Political movements are another matter, and political parties have aligned themselves along the racial fault lines of society, although there is slowly a movement towards better integration. While the majority of black South Africans voting for the ANC, the majority of white South Africans and people of colour are voting for the liberal-centrist Democratic Alliance. Politics in South Africa is a sensitive subject that is best spoken about with caution.

Interracial marriages are becoming more common and, except perhaps for some of the older generation, people no longer take offence if you and your partner do not share the same skin colour.

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 but have increasing numbers of blacks, coloureds and Indians in their ranks, have in many ways similar lifestyles to people in Western Europe, North America and Australasia.

One of the first youth organisations open to young people and adults of all races in South Africa was the South African Scout Association. This happened on 2 July 1977 at a conference that became known as “Quo Vadis”.

Art in South Africa

South African art includes the oldest art objects in the world, discovered in a South African cave and dated to 75,000 years ago. The scattered tribes of Khoisan people who moved into South Africa from around 10000 BC had their own fluid style of art, which can be seen today in a variety of cave paintings. They were displaced by the Bantu/Nguni peoples with their own vocabulary of art forms. New art forms developed in the mines and townships: dynamic art using everything from plastic strips to bicycle spokes. Dutch-influenced African Trekker folk art, and white urban artists who followed the changing European traditions in earnest from the 1850s onwards, also contributed to this eclectic mix that has developed to the present day.

South African literature has emerged from a unique social and political history. One of the first known novels written by a black author in an African language was Solomon Thekiso Plaatjes Mhudi in 1930. In the 1950s, Drum magazine became a hotbed of political satire, fiction and essays that gave voice to urban black culture.

Notable white South African authors include Alan Paton, who published the highly acclaimed novel Cry, the Beloved Country in 1948. Nadine Gordimer was the first South African to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991. Her most famous novel, July’s People, was published in 1981. J.M. Coetzee has been awarded with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003. In awarding the prize, the Swedish Academy stated that Coetzee “portrays the surprising implication of the outsider in countless characters”.

Athol Fugard’s plays regularly premiere in South Africa, London (Royal Court Theatre) and New York’s Fringe Theatre. Olive Schreiner’s The Story of an African Farm (1883) was a revelation in Victorian literature: it is hailed by many as introducing feminism into the novel form.

Breytenbach was imprisoned for his involvement in the guerrilla movement against apartheid. André Brink was the first African writer to be banned by the government after publishing his novel A Dry White Season.

Popular culture in South Africa

The South African media industry is large and South Africa is one of the major media centres in Africa. While South Africa’s many broadcasters and publications reflect the diversity of the population at large, the most common language used is English. However, all the other ten official languages are represented to some extent.

There is a great deal of diversity in South African music. Black musicians have developed a distinctive style known as ‘Kwaito’. Kwaito is said to have conquered radio, television and magazines. Noteworthy is Brenda Fassie, who rose to fame with a song called “Weekend Special” sung in English. South Africa has produced some of the world’s most famous jazz musicians, including Hugh Masekela, Jonas Guwangwa, Abdullah Ibrahim, Miriam Makeba, Jonathan Butler, Chris McGregor and Satima Bo Benjamin. Afrikaans music spans multiple genres, including contemporary Steve Hoffmeyer, punk rock band Fokow Policy Car and singer-songwriter Jeremy Loops.

Although South African film productions are little known outside of South Africa itself, there are many foreign films about South Africa. Probably the best-known film to portray South Africa in recent years was District 9. In 2015, Oliver Hermanu’s film The Endless River became the first South African film to be selected for the Venice Film Festival.

Sports in South Africa

Football, rugby and cricket are the most popular sports in South Africa. Other sports that receive strong support are swimming, athletics, golf, boxing, tennis, ringball and netball. While football has the largest following among young people, other sports such as basketball, surfing and skateboarding are also gaining in popularity.

Footballers who have played for major foreign clubs include Steven Pienaar, Lucas Radebe and Philemon Masinga, Benny McCarthy, Aaron Mokoena and Delon Barkley. South Africa hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup and FIFA President Sepp Blatter awarded South Africa a score of 9 out of 10 for a successful World Cup.

Notable boxing personalities include Baby Jake Jacob Matlala, Buyani Bungu, Welcome Nshita, Dingaan Tovela, Gerry Coetzee and Brian Mitchell. Durban surfer Jordy Smith won the Billabong J-Bay in 2010, making him the world number one. South Africa produced the world Formula One champion Jordy Scheckter in 1979. Notable current cricketers include AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Faf du Plessis and many others. Most of them also play in the Indian Premier League.

A number of world-class rugby athletes are also being born in South Africa, including Francois Pienaar, Joost van der Westhuizen, Danny Craven, Frick du Preez, Naas Botha and Bryan Habana. South Africa hosted and won the 1995 Rugby After the 1995 Rugby World Cup, South Africa hosted the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations, which the national team won. It also hosted the 2003 Cricket World Cup and the 2007 Twenty20 World Cup.

In 2004, the swimming team of Roland Schoeman, Lyndon Ferns, Darian Townsend and Ryk Neethling won the gold medal at the Athens Olympics and also broke the world record in the 4×100 freestyle relay. 1996 Atlanta Olympics saw Penny Hesvin win the In 2012, Oscar Pistorius became the first double amputee sprinter to compete at the London Olympics. In golf, Gary Player is widely regarded as one of the greatest golfers of all time, becoming one of five golfers to win a professional Grand Slam. Other South African golfers to win majors include Bobby Locke, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Tim Clark, Trevor Immelman, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.

Stay Safe & Healthy in South Africa

Stay safe in South Africa

South 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 and enjoyable trip, just as hundreds of thousands of other people have every year. The key is to know and follow general safety precautions: Never walk around deserted areas at night or advertise the possession of money or expensive accessories.

Do not accept offers from friendly strangers. Don’t carry a fanny pack with all your valuables; instead, consider a concealed money belt that you wear under your shirt. Leave passports and other valuables in a safe or other secure place, although most banks and bureaux de change will require your passport to exchange foreign funds into rands. Do not carry large sums of money. Do not walk in deserted places at night. Conceal the fact that you are a tourist: Hide your camera and binoculars. Do not leave your valuables in plain sight when you are driving, as “smash and grab” robberies sometimes occur at intersections. Know where to go so you don’t get lost or need a map: This will help you avoid signs.

If you carry bags, try to hook them under a table or chair leg when you sit down as this will prevent them from being snatched.

Visiting the townships is possible, but do not do it alone unless you really know where you are going. While some towns are quite safe, there are also some very dangerous places. Go with an experienced guide. Some tour operators offer guided visits to the townships, which are absolutely safe.

Walking in the evening or going to venues after dark can be very risky. It is simply not part of the culture there as it is in Europe, North America or Australia. It is best to take a taxi (a metered taxi, not a minibus taxi) or a private vehicle for an “evening walk”. The same goes for taking hitchhikers or offering help if your car breaks down. If someone looks like they are in trouble on the street, it is best to ignore them as they may be a scam. Keep driving until you see a police station and tell them what you saw.

If you are driving in South Africa and a police officer stops you to check your licence and you show them your foreign licence, they may come out with some rude comments. If your licence is in English, or you have an international driving permit, there is nothing they can do. Stand firm and state this fact – be polite, courteous and do not pay money (bribes).

Be especially careful when driving at night. Unlike in Europe and North America, large parts of South African roads, especially in rural areas, are poorly lit or often not lit at all. This also applies to highways. Be especially careful as wildlife and people often walk in the middle of the road in smaller towns (not in cities like Pretoria, Johannesburg or Cape Town). You also need to be extra careful when driving in South Africa as there is a risk of car theft.

O.R. Tambo International Airport Security Alert

Airport operators occasionally steal valuable items such as iPods, laptops, digital cameras, mobile phones and jewellery when scanning passengers’ checked baggage. They take advantage of the scanning machine to identify and steal valuable items. These incidents occur and the stolen items include everything from electronic devices to designer perfumes.

Place all valuables in your hand luggage and remember that more than 100 ml of lotion and other liquids are not allowed in your hand luggage. When checking in at O.R. Tambo, the check-in attendant will remind you not to put any valuables in your luggage. There is a service at the airport that will wrap your luggage in cling film, while others will wire the zips to prevent easy access to the contents of your luggage.

Important telephone numbers

  • The National Tourism Information – Safety Line, 083 123 2345. Operated by South African Tourism edit.
  • TheNationalInstituteforSea Rescue, +27 21 434-4011, 082 380 3800 (after hours). A voluntary organisation with rescue stations on the coast and larger inland waters

From a fixed line

  • 107 – Emergency call (in Cape Town, from landlines only)
  • 10111 – Police
  • 10177 – Ambulance

From a mobile phone

  • 112-All emergencies

International calls at local rate

  • Step 1: Dial: 087 150 0823 from any mobile or landline phone
  • Step 2: Dial destination number and press #
    • z. B. 00 44 11 123 4567
  • Countries: USA, UK(landline), India, Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong and many more.
  • Supported by: Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, Telkom and Neotel


One of the main reasons for travellers to visit South Africa is to experience the great outdoors and see the wide variety of wildlife.

When driving in a game reserve, always obey the speed limits and stay in your car at all times. Always follow your guide’s instructions when on game drives or walks.

Make sure you wear socks and boots when out in the bush; do not wear open sandals. A good pair of boots can prevent snake and insect bites and avoid possible cuts that can lead to infections.

In many areas you may encounter wildlife while driving on public roads, monkeys and baboons are particularly common. Do not get out of the vehicle to take photos or otherwise attempt to interact with the animals. As they are wild animals, their behaviour is often unpredictable.

You may even find yourself out in the wild, with wild animals( this often happens with baboons at Cape Point). Keep your distance and always make sure the animals are only on one side of you, do not walk between two groups or individuals. A female baboon can become quite agitated if you separate her from her baby.

Always check with the locals before swimming in a river or lake as there may be crocodiles or hippos. Shark nets have been installed on most major beaches in KwaZulu-Natal. If you intend to swim anywhere other than the main beaches, ask a local first.

Note that shark nets may be removed for a few days during the annual sardine fishery (usually along the KwaZulu-Natal coast between early May and late July). This is done to avoid excessive deaths from sharks and other marine animals. Notices are posted on the beaches during this time.

Stay healthy in South Africa

Emergency and medical assistance

There are a number of independent emergency aid companies in South Africa

  • Netcare 911, 49 New Rd, Midrand, +27 11 254-1927. Some travel agents offer Netcare911 cover as an option, but you can also take them out through Travel Insurance (see below) or find out if your existing cover has a link with them.
  • Travel Insurance, +27 11 780-3300. Is contracted with Netcare and provides comprehensive EMS cover for travellers entering South Africa.
  • ER24, Manor 1, Cambridge Manor Office Park. A large and well represented urgent care company comprising the Medi-Clinic chain of hospitals.


It is best to avoid public hospitals if possible. Private hospitals are of world-class standard.


The main pharmacy chains found in tourist shopping centres (e.g. Sandton City, V&A Waterfront) are Clicks and Dischem. Some supermarket chains such as Checkers have their own pharmacies in the shops.

Pharmacies in South Africa are generally in a similar class to those in Europe and North America. Note, however, that the shelves of South African pharmacies tend to have a smaller selection of medicines than their North American counterparts and a higher quantity of nutritional supplements. South African pharmacies carry many OTC medicines, but if you don’t see them on the shelf, you will have to ask for them at the counter when the pharmacist is there.


Municipal tap water is generally safe to drink throughout the country. In the Western Cape, mountain water is safe, even if it is coloured brown by vegetation. There is a strong risk of schistosomiasis if the water is stagnant.


Many activities in South Africa take place outdoors, see the travel topic Sunburn and Sun Protection for tips on how to protect yourself.


The rate of HIV infection in South Africa is among the highest in the world. Out of a population of 48 million, 5.4 million people are HIV positive.

The HIV infection rate in the total population older than 2 years varies from about 2 % in the Western Cape to over 17 % in KwaZulu-Natal (Avert and overall 18.8 % of South Africans over 15 years are HIV positive. It is estimated that one in four women and one in five men between the ages of 20 and 40 are infected.


The north-eastern areas of the country (including the Kruger National Park and St Lucia and surrounding areas) are seasonal malaria areas, roughly from November to May. The main risk period is just after the rainy season from March to May. Consult a doctor about appropriate precautions depending on the time of year you are travelling. The most important protective measures against malaria are:

  • Use of a DEET-based mosquito repellent
  • Cover your skin with long-sleeved clothing, especially at dusk; and
  • Use of mosquito nets when sleeping.

Tabbard and Peaceful Sleep are commonly used mosquito repellents and can be bought almost everywhere.


Smoking is prohibited in all enclosed public spaces, including airports, pubs, shopping centres and theatres. However, this is largely ignored. If people smoke indoors, feel free to join them.

Most restaurants have smoking areas, either ventilated indoor areas or open outdoor areas.



South America


North America

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