South Africa is served by more than 70 international airlines and the national carrier, South African Airways, flies to numerous destinations in Europe, North and South America, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Direct flights between the USA and Johannesburg or Cape Town are about 15 hours, and flights between London and Johannesburg take about 12 hours. Johannesburg International Airport is the major airport in South Africa and is the hub for 45 airlines from all five continents. All visitors to South Africa must be in possession of a valid passport in order to enter the country, and in some cases, a visa. Travellers from certain regions of the world (Scandinavia, Japan, the USA, and most Western European and Commonwealth countries) do not need to apply for a visa in advance, as they will automatically be given an entry permit upon arrival in South Africa. This permit is usually for a maximum of 90 days, though the immigration officer may tailor the time-period according to the airline tickets held. Foreign nationals from some other countries are offered this service, but for a maximum of 30 days. If visitors want to stay for a longer period, they will have to apply formally for a visa from a South African embassy or consulate prior to arrival.
To determine whether you require a visa to enter South Africa, visit the South African Home Affairs Department website at home-affairs.pwv.gov.za.
South Africa enjoys a temperate and pleasant climate, with warm sunny days most of the year. The seasons of the southern hemisphere are opposite to those in the northern hemisphere. Therefore, summers are from November to February. This is when most of the country is characterised by hot weather with afternoon thunderstorms. Winters are generally mild and dry. South Africa enjoys one of the world's highest average daily hours of sunshine.
The Rand is the unit of currency, denoted by the symbol R, with 100 cents making up R1 (one Rand). Foreign currency can be exchanged at local banks and Bureaux de Changes. Most major international credit cards such as American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa, and their affiliates are widely accepted. You can use Visa and MasterCard almost everywhere. ATM's are widely available. There is a sophisticated financial sector, abreast of all the latest technological trends including on-line banking.
UTC / GMT (+2 hour) South Africa operates two hours ahead of Universal Time Co-ordinated / Greenwich Mean Time throughout the year, making it an hour ahead of Central European Time, and seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
Most major shopping centres and malls operate 7 days a week, but you will find that in the smaller towns and rural areas that shops are closed on a Sunday.
South Africa's mobile phone operators utilise the GSM system. International roaming could be set up with your service provider before you leave home. Alternatively, you can rent a phone at the airport upon arrival, and use a 'pay-as-you-go' card during your stay. Fixed line telephones provide reliable access to local and international exchanges. The country's telecommunications operator Telkom, is the 28th largest in the world, and accounts for 39% of the phone lines on the African continent. Internet access is widely available.
220/230 volts AC 50 HzExceptions: Pretoria (230 V) and Port Elizabeth (200/250 V)Most plugs have three round pins but some plugs with two smaller pins are also found on appliances. Adaptors can be purchased but may be in short supply. US-made appliances may need a transformer.
There are 11 officially recognised languages, most of them indigenous to South Africa and English is one of these. English is the language of the cities, of commerce and banking, of government and official documents. Road signs are in English. Hotel service staff will speak English.
The seasons in the southern hemisphere are directly opposite to those of the northern hemisphere. For summer months, lightweight (natural fibres), short-sleeved clothes are best, although a light sweater / jacket might be needed for the cooler evenings. Umbrellas and raincoats are essential for the summers and the Western Cape winters. Warmer clothes are needed for the winter months.
The infrastructure is very reliable and of a world-class standard except in some very remote rural areas, not frequented by tourists. The road network is excellent and well maintained. In recent years, major toll roads have opened, making driving long distance even easier. All visitors intending to drive are required to obtain an international drivers permit. Visitors found driving without a permit would be fined and not permitted to continue on their journey. Visitors may not be able to rent a car without a valid driver's permit. The wearing of seatbelts is compulsory and strictly enforced by law.
Many foreigners are unaware that South Africa has high standards of water treatment and that medical facilities are comparable to the best in the world. There is a large network of public and private hospitals countrywide, offering excellent service. However, clients must have adequate health insurance to cover the fees of private hospitals.
Malaria is found only in the Lowveld of Mpumalanga and Limpopo and on the Maputaland coast of KwaZulu-Natal. Malaria is not much of a risk in the winter months. Although the incidence of malaria is rare, it would be best to take adequate precautions if you choose to visit these areas. With modern insect repellents and some common sense, one can reduce the chances of being bitten to close to zero.
If you are in doubt as to the safety of a particular area or attraction, contact the National Tourism information and Safety Line at 083 123 2345. This number may also be used for practical assistance in replacing lost documents or reporting incidents.
In hotels, restaurants and nightspots, the standards of hygiene and food preparation are very high. It is safe to eat fresh fruit and salads and to put as much ice as you like in your drinks.