The local currency is the rand (R), with 100 cents (c) equalling R1. Notes come in R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200 denominations, whilst coins are minted in R5, R2, R1, 50c, 20c, 10c, 5c, and 1c. All major commercial banks and Foreign Exchange Bureaus provide foreign exchange services. American Express, Diners Club, Master Card and Visa are welcome and can be used at most ATM’s. Most commercial banks are open from 09:00 – 15:30, Mondays to Fridays and from 08:30 – 11:00 on Saturdays.
Shops are open from 08:30 – 17:00, Mondays to Fridays and from 08:30 – 12:30 on Saturdays. However, major shopping centres are abuzz till later on Saturdays and are also open on Sunday mornings.
The amount of South African currency brought into the country is restricted to R500. Duty will be levied on the first R1 000 over this allowance.
Most visitors only need a valid passport when entering South Africa, but some may require a visa as well. If you intend travelling to neighbouring countries and back to SA, apply for a multiple-entry visa.
Positioned in the Southern hemisphere, South Africa enjoys its peak summer tourist season from November through to March (during the Northern American and European winters). Most of South Africa enjoys a pleasant, warm climate year-round, with annual average rainfall less than 10 inches in the west and 40 inches in the east. Check with your travel agent when the best time is to visit the various provinces.
South African Airways, most of the country’s hotels and the majority of the rest camps in the National Parks offer facilities for the disabled. You can rent wheelchairs and other aids in most cities and the larger car rental companies can provide vehicles with hand controls.
In Southern Africa, driving is on the left, and pedestrians should therefore look right, then left before crossing. Any valid driver’s licence is accepted in South Africa, provided it bears the photograph and signature of the holder and is printed in English. The country has a network of multi-lane roads and highways, some of which may require tolls. The speed limit on city roads is 60 km/h, whilst on national highways, it is 120 km/h (75mph). Wearing a seatbelt is compulsory, driving under the influence of alcohol is considered a serious offence, and traffic laws are strictly enforced.
You can buy duty-free goods at the Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban airports.
Ensure you bring a converter and adapter. The electrical current is generally 220/230 volts AC, 50 cycles, except in Pretoria, where the current is 250 volts AC.
The national emergency number for the police is 10111; and 999 for an ambulance.
While South Africa maintains excellent medical facilities, there is no national health system, so you should take out travel insurance for your stay. Unless otherwise signposted, you can drink the tap water and eat all fresh produce in the country. Whilst you can swim safely at beaches along the entire coastline, you shouldn’t swim in rivers and lakes in the eastern and northern regions, as the bilharzia parasite may be in the water.
However, warning signs are usually posted. Before visiting the game reserves and parks of the Northern Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, you should take malaria tablets as a precautionary measure. Consult your doctor or pharmacist for advice and dosage.
Whilst English is the language of administration and is widely spoken, South Africa has 10 other official languages. These are Afrikaans, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.
Crime is noted for being a problem in South Africa and tourists are advised to undertake normal precautionary measures. Be observant throughout the day and night and do not draw attention to yourself by flashing an expensive camera, jewellery or large amounts of cash. Rather deposit your valuables in your hotels’ safety deposit box. Don’t walk the streets alone after dark, and keep your car doors locked and windows closed at all times. It is preferable to keep personal items and luggage hidden in the trunk rather than visible on the seat of the car. Remember to park in well-lit areas and to not pick up strangers.
The country code for South Africa is 27. When dialling from outside South Africa use 2711 (or code relevant to province) and 011 (or code relevant to province) when dialling within the country. Public phones are either coin or card operated and phone cards are available at post offices and airports.
In South Africa, tipping is expected for services that you may take for granted back home. The norm is to tip petrol attendants, waiters and taxi drivers 10 per cent of the bill unless a service charge has already been added.
Value Added Tax
A 15 per cent Value Added Tax is added to the price of most items and services. However, if you retain your receipt of purchase, you can claim the VAT back on goods priced higher than R250 at the airport of departure, various harbours and customs offices. You will also need to produce a VAT refund control sheet, your passport and the items purchased.