South Africa is one of the most developed places in whole of Africa. The major cities in South Africa definitely have their own twist to them and you will also be greeted with the familiar big city buzz. If you want something familiar, yet exotic then South Africa is where you want to be.
For the Kids
South Africa is also an excellent holiday destination for kids. Cape Town offers loads of attractions for children of all ages and most hotels will have children-care centers where your kids will be taken care of while you depart to explore the more adventurous side of the city of South Africa.
Great for Honeymoons
While not the most popular honeymoon destination, South Africa definitely has something extraordinary to offer to newlyweds. Enjoy a safari with your loved one or admire the Cape Town lights at night for some of the most beautiful and romantic sceneries you will ever see. Even if you are planning a wedding somewhere abroad, South Africa is worth considering, because it is different and the difference makes an unforgettable experience.
Hotels and resorts in South Africa are plenty in the popular tourist routes and are equal to the needs of most. From the discerning traveler who accepts none else than 5-star luxury to the cost conscious who is happy to wake up in a plain and cosy guesthouse. Accommodation options encompass hotels, game lodges and camps, resorts, health spas, motels, guesthouses, bed and breakfasts, holiday farms, beach cottages, holiday flats and bungalows. There are also over 800 camp and caravan sites in the country.
Johannesburg is fast becoming a regional hub for air travel. The country’s national carrier is South African Airways (SAA). There are numerous direct and indirect flights for those traveling from Europe and North America. There are also flights from other parts of Africa, the Far East and South America. International airports in the country are: Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth. As Cape Town’s stature as a destination grows, there is an increasing number of direct international flights.
The road infrastructure is good and it is easy and convenient to get around the country by car. Self-drive and chauffeur-driven rental cars in South Africa are widely available. Visitors must be in possession of an international driving license. The country has taken after the British and driving is on the left.
The principal cities of Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, East London, Johannesburg, Kimberley, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria are serviced by daily flights. South African Airways among other domestic carriers operates on the principal routes. Cruises offer links between the country’s major ports such as Durban, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and East London.
Rail services of varying quality link the main cities. The luxury and very pricey Blue Train offers an express service between Pretoria, Victoria Falls, Hoedspruit, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. Long-distance trains are equipped with sleeping compartments. You should reserve ahead of travel especially for overnight journeys. A number of bus operators run intercity express links using modern air-conditioned coaches.
All visitors to South Africa require passports valid for at least 30 days after planned date of exit. For those visiting for upto 90 days no visas are required from citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, United States, Switzerland and the European Union. There is also visa waiver for between 30-90 days for a few other selected countries. But visa requirements vary from time to time and you are advised to check on prevailing status well ahead of travel. Visas are not issued at South Africa border points.
Visitors entering South Africa from yellow fever infected areas require yellow fever international certificate of vaccination. Certain low altitude regions in Northern Province, Eastern Transvaal (including the Kruger National Park) and north east of KwaZulu-Natal are prone to malaria. Visitors to these areas are strongly advised to take anti-malaria medication before traveling. Tap water is generally considered safe in urban areas but not so elsewhere. Bilharzia occurs in the north and east of the country where you are advised not to swim in fresh water. HIV-AIDS is prevalent in the country and due care is called for.
Telephone, fax, telegram, post and Internet services are available. Direct dialing to many countries is available at most hotels. The country code for South Africa is 27. Mobile phones are based on GSM 900 network and coverage extends to most urban areas. You can obtain a GSM card that will allow you to make international calls to any country. E-mail is accessible at Internet cafes around the country.
The local currency is the South African Rand (ZAR). Foreign currency can be exchanged at bureaux de change, some hotels, and larger shops and restaurants. Automated foreign exchange machines and ATMs are also available at limited locations. Travelers cheques (i.e checks) are valid at banks, hotels, shops and restaurants. You get the most reasonable exchange rates for US dollar, Euro and Pound Sterling. Visa and Mastercard credit cards have the widest acceptance. American Express and Diners Club have slightly less acceptability.
People & Culture
South Africa is such a vibrant country due to the diversity of its people. There is a lot to be said for the wildlife and natural attractions of this land but you will have missed much if you have no encounters with its people. The Khoi-San (bushmen) are entitled to claim of having the deepest roots and some of their ancestors’ rock and cave paintings date back 26,000 years ago. Other prominent members of this “rainbow nation” include Zulu, Tswana, Ndebele, Xhosa, Sotho, Indian, Afrikaans and those of British origin. The Zulu is one of the more vibrant of traditional black cultures and their dance and dress is quite striking.
In historic terms, apartheid has just recently been dethroned and it is not surprising that colour is still such as an important part of peoples identity. Some knowledge of English will help you get by in urban areas and almost elsewhere in the country. Beer and brandy are the popular routes to getting tipsy though many are increasingly finding South Africa’s excellent wines tempting. The music scene is vibrant and groups such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo are now well known in the west. The country has so many stories to be told as the grandees who award the Nobel Prize for literature have recognized. The 2003 winner was Cape Town born J.M Coetzee, who follows in the footsteps of Nadine Gordimer winner of the prize in 1991.
In general South Africa has a warm temperate climate to the delight of many sunshine-seekers. The country experiences about seven months of sunshine. The colder part of the year falls between May and August. But for such a large country there are of course variations. The coast of KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Northern Province are generally hot and humid and June and July are the preferred holiday months.
Winters are generally mild except at the higher altitudes where there are occasional snowfalls to the consternation of those visitors with fixed ideas about climatic conditions in Africa. Summer can be uncomfortably hot in the Low Veld. The hotter areas include the lower Orange River valley and the Mpumalanga Lowveld. Regions in the north east of the country can get quite humid. In Cape Town region rainfall is highest in winter. Most of the rest of the country experiences the highest rainfall in the summer. Those who have come to view game are advised to travel in winter when the grass is short and the animals are much easier to sight.
There are world-class medical facilities in South Africa. Health and the usual travel insurance are recommended.
What to Wear
If you travel in summer you should pack light cottons, linens and rainwear. For winter you need warmer clothes and rainwear if you travel to the Cape region. Casual wear will be adequate for most occasions. On formal social functions however men should turn out in dinner jackets and black ties and women in full-length dresses.