As the country lies in the southern hemisphere, the seasons in South Africa are the reverse of those in the northern hemisphere. December and January are the main summer holiday months, and people flock to the beaches in droves. In May and June, Autumn brings warm days and cool nights. Autumn and Spring are the best seasons for hiking. From the beginning of July to the end of September, you can expect cold and rain in the Western Cape. Snow sometimes falls on the Cape mountains in winter.
A direct dialing service connects all centres and the international telephone service links south Africa with countries around the world. Cellular phones can be hired on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Internet access is available in all but the most remote areas and broadband (ADSL) is available in the major urban areas.
Major international credit cards such as American Express, Diners Club, Mastercard, Visa and their affiliates are accepted in South Africa
The currency unit is the Rand, denoted by the symbol R1. R1 = 100 cents. Foreign currency can be exchanged at commercial banks, American Express and Rennies Travel. Notes issued R200, R100, R50, R20, R10; coins R5, R2, R1, 50c 20c, 10c and 5c. Currency exchange rates are available at banks and published daily in the press.
220/230 volts AC at 50 cycles per second. Three pronged plugs are universal, so take an adapter. Most hotel rooms have 110-volt outlets for electric shavers and small appliances.
The western and eastern Cape are free of both Malaria and Bilharzia (present in streams, rivers, lakes and dams in some of the northern and eastern parts of the country) although for visitors planning to venture further north we recommend preventative medication which is obtainable at all South African pharmacies. It's important to consult a pharmacist for advice on the best drug or drug combination you should take.
The South African sun is strong with a high ultraviolet rating, so screening products with sun protection factors of 15 and over are recommended.
Passport holders from more than 80 countries, including the USA, Canada, Japan and the European Union countries can visit South Africa without visas. For further information contact your local office of the diplomatic or consular representative of the South African Government. If you intend traveling to South Africa's neighbouring countries and back into South Africa you are advised to apply for multiple entry visas. Tourists must satisfy immigration officers that they have the means to support themselves during their stay, and that they are in possession of return or onward air tickets.
A law has been passed stipulating that all visitors to South Africa are required to have a minimum of two blank pages in their passport to enable the entry visa to be issued. If there is insufficient space in the passport entry will be denied and the person is likely to be detained pending return to their country of origin.
In the major cities and towns and most game reserves, tap water is purified and 100% safe to drink.
Throughout the year, Standard Time in South Africa is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean time, one hour ahead of Central European Winter Time, and seven hours in advance of Eastern Standard Winter Time.
People arriving in South Africa from a Yellow Fever zone, must have a valid international yellow fever inoculation certificate. Infants under the age of one year are exempt. Immunisation against cholera and smallpox is not required.
South Africa currently has 11 official languages. English is spoken throughout the country. French, Italian and German are spoken by staff members in many of the larger hotels and shops that cater to the tourist markets.
South Africa has no national health scheme. It's advisable to purchase travel insurance which covers medical expenses during the period of your stay.
South African manufacturers set a high premium on workmanship, and a favourable exchange rate against the major currencies means that you can afford to be a bit extravagant. Shopping hours are generally 08:00 to 17:00 on weekdays, and 08:00 to 13:00 on Saturdays. Many shops in cities and big shopping malls are open Sundays.
An excellent road network links the largest metropolitan areas with the smallest villages. The speed limit in urban areas is usually 60 km per hour, and on freeways 120 km per hour unless otherwise indicated. Wearing seat belts is compulsory; driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offence and traffic laws are strictly enforced. A valid driver's license, provided the photograph is an integral part of the document, and provided it is printed in English, is accepted. If your licence does not comply with these requirements, you should obtain an International Driving Permit before your departure for South Africa. Drive on the left and give way to traffic approaching from the right.
VAT (Value Added Tax):
Currently set at 14%, VAT is included in the marked/quoted price of most goods and services. Foreign visitors are not exempt from paying VAT on purchased goods. They may, however, claim back VAT paid on items taken out of the country when the total value exceeds R 250.00.
Most international traveler's checks are accepted provided they are in an acceptable currency and may be cashed at most banks. Many hotels and shops also provide this service.