South Africa operates two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time throughout the year making it an hour ahead of central European winter time, seven hours ahead of Eastern standard winter time and seven hours behind Australian central time.
Passports & Visas
For the majority of foreign nationals who travel to South Africa for vacation, entry is straightforward, and hassle free. 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 formally apply for a visa. Upon arrival in South Africa, countries falling into this category will automatically be given a free entry permit sticker that outlines how long they may remain in the country. This automatic entry 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 the visitors want to stay for a longer period, they will have to apply formally for a visa, as opposed to relying on the automatic entry permit.
However it is important to note that under South Africa’s immigration Act of 2002 (Act 13 of 2002) in force since 7 April 2003, (a) Immigration Act 2002 the passport shall contain at least ONE unused page when presenting the passport for endorsements. This requirement, reflects the requirements of many of the world’s top travel destinations, in line with the majority of global destinations requirements and failure to have a clear page can result in entry being refused.
To determine whether you require a visa to enter South Africa, visit the comprehensive South African Home Affairs Department website at: www.home-affairs.gov.za
For South African missions abroad, visit: www.dfa.gov.za/foreign/sa_abroad/index.htm
Banks & Money
The currency unit is the Rand, 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.
Most restaurants do not add a service charge to bills – thus it is customary to leave a 10-15% tip. Parking and petrol station attendants can be given whatever small change you have available. This is always appreciated, even though it may seem a small amount.
Tax Value added tax (VAT) is charged on most items. Foreign tourists to South African can have their 14% VAT refunded, provided that the value of the items purchased exceeds R250-00. VAT is refunded at the point of departure, provided receipts are produced.
Generally speaking, our facilities for disabled visitors can be improved, and this is an area our government is working on. An increasing number of accommodation establishments have wheelchair ramps, and bathroom facilities for the disabled. Almost every national park has at least one accessible chalet and many accommodation establishments have one or two wheelchair friendly rooms. Most of our sports stadiums have accessible suites, stands or areas for wheelchairs near accessible parking, as well as special toilet facilities. Most public buildings also cater for wheelchair access.
The seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are directly opposite to those of the Northern Hemisphere. For summer months, lightweight (cottons and linens), short-sleeved clothes are best, although a light jersey / jumper might be needed for the cooler evenings. Umbrella’s and raincoats are essential for the summers, and the Western Cape winters. Warmer clothes are needed for the winter months.
South Africa’s electricity supply : 220/230 volts AC 50 Hz. Exceptions : 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.
Health & Safety
Many foreigners are unaware that South Africa has a well developed infrastructure, high standard of water treatment and medical facilities equal to the best in the world. Here we address any health and safety questions you may have.
Hospitals & Medical Care
In a great many medical disciplines, South Africa is a global leader. In fact South African trained doctors are sought after all over the world, so this should give an indication of the standard of medical care available. 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 private hospitals charge.
South Africa boasts a vast array of cultures, communities, sites and attractions. Most parts of the country can be safely visited by tourists, provided they take basic common sense precautions, for example not walking alone in deserted areas at night and being circumspect about how much photographic equipment or flashy jewellery you carry. Most major cities run organized crime prevention programs. Basic safety tip guidelines will be available at hotels and tourism information offices.
If you are in doubt as to the safety of a particular area or attraction, contact the National Tourism Information and Safety line on +27 (0) 83-123-2345. The number may also be used for practical assistance in replacing lost documents or reporting incidents.
Food & Water
As a rule, tap water in South Africa is safe to drink, as it is treated and is free of harmful micro-organisms. In hotels, restaurants and night spots, the standards of hygiene and food preparation is top notch. It is safe to eat fresh fruit and salads and to put as much ice as you like in your drinks – a good thing too after a day on the beach or in the bush.
Our transport infrastructure is excellent, and our roads are in good condition. However the distances between towns is significant, so if you are planning to self drive it is a good idea to plan your itinerary to ensure you don’t drive long distances, as fatigue is a major cause of road accidents. Avoid long car journeys that necessitate driving at night, as it always carries more risk. Also in some of the more remote rural areas, the roads are not fenced so there may be stray animals on the road, which could be very dangerous at night.
We have very strict drinking and driving laws, with a maximum allowable alcohol blood content of 0.05%. Translated that means about one glass of wine for the average woman, and perhaps 1.5 or 2 for the average or larger man. Our speed limits are 120 kmph on the open road, 100 kmph on smaller roads and between 60 and 80 kmph in towns. Be aware that even major national roads cut through residential areas, so there may be a speed limit of 80 or 60 kmph on a road that looks like an autobahn. This is to protect pedestrians, especially children, so we really do encourage people to comply.
Driving All visitors intending to drive are required to obtain an international drivers permit. Visitors found driving without a permit will be fined and not permitted to continue on their journey. Visitors will also not be able to rent a car without a valid drivers permit. The wearing of seatbelts is compulsory, and strictly enforced by law.
Visitors who are entering South Africa from a yellow fever zone must have a valid international yellow fever inoculation certificate. Only infants under the age of one year are exempt. Immunisation against cholera and small pox are not required, and no other vaccinations are required when visiting South Africa.
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. We do however stress that the Sabi Sands Game Reserve is a low risk malaria area and incidents of this ailment are very rare.
Our government has embarked on an extensive anti-malaria programme (in co-operation with Swaziland and Mozambique) and the incidence of malaria is decreasing. One reassuring thing about malaria is that there is absolutely no way at all that you can contract it, unless you are bitten by an infected mosquito. And with modern insect repellents and some common sense, one can reduce the chances of being bitten to close to zero.
The cheapest, safest and most effective measures against malaria are physical barriers, such as a mosquito net, and the use of a good insect repellent. If you decide to take malaria prophylaxis, it is essential that you take the drugs according to the directions on the package insert. You will need to start a week or two before entering a malaria-endemic area, and should continue taking the drugs for four weeks after leaving the malaria risk area. It is advisable to consult a medical professional before embarking on a course of malaria prophylaxis. Note that expectant mothers should avoid malaria medication.
Most major shopping centres and malls operate seven days a week, but you will find that in smaller towns and rural areas that shops are closed on Sundays.
Monday – Saturday: 09h00 – 17h00
Sundays: 09h00 – 14h00