In our Quick Guide To… series, we highlight the key information that you should know before travelling to that destination. Today we give you the lowdown on South Africa.
It sounds like a cliché, but South Africa genuinely is a whole world wrapped up in one country. The sheer scope of experiences available make this a place that you can return to again and again, finding new places to explore each time. With such a range of natural beauty and exciting activities waiting to be discovered, you’ll need more than one trip to really do the country justice.
Capital city: Pretoria (Tshwane) is the administrative capital, Cape Town is the legislative capital and Bloemfontein is the judicial capital.
Currency: The Rand is the official currency. All major credit cards are widely accepted.
Climate: It really depends where you are in the country – the Western Cape, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape all have a Mediterranean-type climate. The winter months (April – August) are mild and in these parts, the winters are wet. The rest of the country experiences the opposite: dry winters and wet summers (afternoon thundershowers). The KwaZulu-Natal coastline boasts a subtropical climate which means lots of sunshine throughout the year. The summer months (November to April) are particularly humid with rain. The Free State, Gauteng and North West Province enjoy moderately cold winters and warm to hot summers – it is these areas that get their rainfall during the summer months. Mpumalanga and the Northern Province enjoy mild winters and hot summers.
Visa requirements: Travellers from the UK and most from the European Union do not require a visa (unless it is for work purposes).
PLEASE NOTE: The unabridged birth certificate which was previously a requirement when travelling with foreign minor children into South Africa has now been scrapped. Only a valid passport (and visa where necessary) is now required. For more info, you can read our blog on this topic.
Photo cred: Mujahid Urrehman
Drinking water: Tap water is drinkable in most parts of the country.
Malaria: Malaria is encountered in certain areas, more so at certain times of the year. Depending on where you will be visiting and when, it is best to consult your healthcare professional or travel clinic beforehand to see if prophylactics are required, along with any other recommended vaccinations. This will most likely apply if you’ll be going on safari (for example, to the popular Kruger National Park).
Tipping: Tipping is standard practice in South Africa and should go hand-in-hand with the service received. Generally a 10-15% tip is added to restaurant bills. Hotel staff as well as rangers and tour guides can be given up to R100 per day/trip, depending on the service received. All tipping is ultimately at your own discretion.
Road travel and public transport: Generally, road conditions are good, although in more rural areas, gravel/potholed roads can be encountered. Petrol stations are readily available 24 hours along major roads. Always drive with the doors locked and all passengers are to wear a seatbelt. Picking up hitchhikers should be avoided. Public transport on trains and buses is available in the larger cities, but it isn’t of the highest standard. Uber and private taxi services are safe and recommended. Consult your hotel or guest house for the best way to get around.
Food: South Africa’s cuisine is as diverse as its cultures. Various influences are reflected in the food – from potjiekos (stew prepared in a special cast-iron pot) to pap (a fluffy porridge of maize meal), boerewors (traditional sausage), bunny chow (curry stuffed into a hollowed out loaf of bread), melktert (a tart made from milk) and Malva pudding (a spongy, apricot pudding of Dutch origin), traditional foods are endless and exciting. The country boasts several world-class restaurants, most notably in Cape Town and the Winelands, as well as several fast-food chains. Franschhoek is the gastronomy capital of South Africa and premium wine is found everywhere. Seafood is fresh and high quality and flavours from around the world are represented in all the major cities. Eating out here is excellent bang for buck and a true culinary delight.
Language: South Africa has 11 official languages but English is the most widely spoken.
Note: While we’ve gone out of our way to ensure that all the information provided here is accurate, we cannot be held responsible should the information change. We will update and amend as far as possible as and when we become aware of any changes.