Travel Information, Tourist Information and Tourism Hints for Visitors to South Africa

General Tourist Information and Tourism Hints

Tourist Information - Travel Information - Tourism Hints
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e-Mail:   info@touch-africa-safaris.com
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Some Useful Links:

Adventure Travel    
    The Safari Guys   www.the-safari-guys.com
    Walking Safaris   Tuli Wilderness
    Conservation Project   Tuli Wilderness Conservation
    Conservation Project   Focused African Conservation Effort
         
Parks and Wildlife    
    South African National Parks   www.sanparks.co.za
    Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife   www.kznwildlife.com
         
Accommodation    
    Bed 'n Breakfast Breaks   www.bnbbreaks.com
    Protea Hotels   www.proteahotels.com
         
Car Rental    
    First Car Rental   www.firstcarrental.co.za
 
Some Conservation Links:

     
    World Wildlife Fund www.worldwildlife.org
    Forest Stewardship Council www.fsc.org
    Marine Stewardship Council www.msc.org

Health and Fitness:

Hospitals:

  • South Africa has both Private and Public Hospitals. In general, private hospitals are better maintained and run. All hospitals have outpatient services and emergency casualty facilities. They will accept patients on a cash basis (Credit Cards in Private Hospitals as well). The person travelling must ensure that health insurance is valid and up to date, so that any claims can be dealt with on return to their home country.
  • Most towns also have a resident doctor.
  • South Africa has no national health scheme. It is advisable to purchase travel insurance which includes medical cover.
Information on Visa Requirements, Currency Service, Afrikaans and more General Health Advice:
  • Some parts of South Africa fall in a Malaria area. September is the start of spring and the rain period, so the risk is minimal. As the wet season progresses, so the risk increases. Please consult you doctor or travel clinic for advice. Malaria prophylactics are readily available in South Africa, and we would recommend the additional use of an insect/mosquito repellent especially in the late afternoon and at night.
  • South Africa has a high HIV / Aids infection rate - please be aware of this.
  • Depending on your home country, some inoculations are required before you may enter South Africa - please check with your local travel clinic. Generally speaking the only inoculation required is for Yellow Fever.
  • Persons taking regular medication must please ensure that they bring sufficient quantities with them.

Food and Eating:

  • Water in all hotels, guest houses etc is safe to drink. The mineral content may however be quite high.
  • Bottled water is available in all supermarkets, at service station shops etc.
  • Food - perfectly safe in all hotels, restaurants etc. Do not buy food from open-air stalls in markets or in town etc.
  • Take-out food - perfectly safe from dedicated take-away outlets - e.g. pizza's, hamburgers. Be wary of small cafés and supermarkets selling take-away food over the counter.

Banking and Currency:
In South Africa you will be using the Rand. This is divided into 100 cents. Notes come in denominations of R10.00, R20.00, R50.00, R100.00 and R200.00.

There is an issue at the moment with counterfeit R200.00 notes and many establishments are no longer accepting them.

Coins - 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, R1, R2, R5. The 1c & 2c coins have been phased out.

The best place to cash travelers'' cheques and foreign notes is at the airport. In the smaller towns banks will change foreign money, but this takes time and lots of forms and copies of passport etc. (Allow 45 min to 1 hour in a bank to cash travelers' cheques, or to change money).

Automatic Teller Machines (ATM's) are available everywhere, and cash can be drawn easily. Most machines however do have a daily personal limit set on them by the bank of R1000.00. This varies from bank to bank, and the limit can be as high as R3000.00 per withdrawal.

  • ATM - 24 hrs per day - but please note that you are several thousand km away from home - the electronic link might not work.
  • Banking Hours - Normally 09H00 to 15H00 Monday to Friday, Saturday 08H30 to 11H00, closed Sundays.

Most restaurants and shops are happy to accept all the major credit cards - they do not however accept travelers' cheques, or foreign money as payment.

Need a currency convertor? - Click Here


Travel Insurance:
Please ensure that you have sufficient travel insurance, and that it includes both health cover and cancellation fees.

Climate:
The Tropic of Capricorn runs through the Northern part of South Africa. The Northernmost border with Zimbabwe is the Limpopo River which lies at 22º South, Johannesburg lies at 26º South, Durban at 30º South and Cape Town lies at 34º South. The Southernmost tip of Africa - Cape Agulhas - lies at approx 34º50' South.

September is the start of spring - 1st September the public swimming pools open and traditionally September is the start of the rains - late afternoon showers, with clear skies for the rest of the day. Expect warm to hot days, nights cool - a windbreaker may be necessary. The really hot period is October through to February - expect days of over 30°C.

Please don't underestimate the risk of sunburn. Sunscreen is readily available at supermarkets and pharmacies and it is recommended that you do use a high protection factor sunscreen - at least SPF15.

Winter can be cold at night, dropping to below Zero, especially in the higher regions around Johannesburg, and particularly if you are going to the mountainous regions of the Drakensberg. If you going on safari make sure that you have some warm clothes with you, while the daytime temperatures usually reach about 17º - 20ºC.


Information on Visa Requirements, Currency Service, Afrikaans and morePhotography:
There are no restrictions on photography in South Africa. It is polite to ask before you take photos of people in Traditional Dress, or at markets and of Military and Police personnel etc. Mostly they will oblige you with a happy smile, but please respect their right to privacy. At dedicated "Cultural Villages" or dance shows there are no restrictions whatsoever on taking photos.

Most of the larger towns will have a dedicated photographic shop, and many of the larger supermarkets will have a photographic counter offering a 1-hour developing service, as well as a service for digital photography enabling you to transfer your photographs to a CD or DVD format.

Memory cards for digital cameras are available in some of the larger towns, but it is better to come prepared with a supply of the digital memory cards for your particular camera.

Most film types are available in South Africa, but some of the newer batteries and films may not be available outside of the bigger centers. Please bring spare batteries and film for your cameras, especially for video cameras.


Mobile Phones:
South Africa has a sophisticated mobile phone system. We have three Service Providers - Vodacom, MTN and Cell-C. Coverage is all major roads and all towns in South Africa. Please check with your local service provider that they have an agreement with one of these in South Africa to give you coverage, should you wish to use your mobile phone in South Africa. Mostly it is sufficient to apply for International Coverage through your own Service Provider.

There are shops at all our International Airports where you can hire phones.


Telephones:
We have an excellent telephone system. All hotels, guest houses etc will have telephones. The country code for South Africa is +27. To dial out internationally from South Africa is easy. The international exchange is dialed with 00 - then the country code required and then the number.

For example to dial The Netherlands from South Africa you would dial  00-31-(City Code)-(Number), with +31 being the country code for The Netherlands.

Public telephones are available in all towns, and work on both pre-paid cards and coins. Pre-paid cards can be bought at any Post Office.


Tourist Safety:
Your safety is our primary concern during your visit to South Africa. South Africa is a very safe country to visit, but like any country in the world, South Africa unfortunately also has it's share of criminals. In general:
  • Ask your hotel reception before going "walkabout", especially at night.
  • Make use of taxis where possible - your hotel / guest house will be happy to arrange this for you.
  • Ask locally what the "good and bad" areas are.
  • Enquire from the hotel staff before going to a night-club etc.
  • Beware of pickpockets, don't "show off" gold jewelry, expensive watches, cameras etc when in town.
  • Leave your passport, air ticket, and large amounts of cash in the safe in your room, or for safe-keeping at reception.
  • Criminals tend to target people on their own. Please don't draw large amounts of cash from an ATM on your own.

Please be aware that criminals tend to target people at ATM's - DO NOT ACCEPT HELP FROM STRANGERS AT AN ATM!


South Africa: Time Zone:
South Africa is 2 hours ahead of GMT, one hour ahead of Central European Wintertime and 7 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Wintertime (USA).

Electricity:
South Africa works on a 220v system. Electricity supply is reliable, 24 hrs per day. Some of the remote game parks and lodges do however work on generators, so supply there may be intermittent.

We recommend that you buy an adapter locally to fit the wall plugs, as our experience is that the so-called "international plugs" don't work here. Our wall sockets are all round socket, three-holed, triangular configuration, with the top hole slightly larger than the bottom two. "Double adapters" - as we call them here - are freely available in supermarkets and hardware stores. They will convert the three-hole system to a two-hole plug, which then fits cables for mobile telephones, videos etc.


Information on Visa Requirements, Currency Service, Afrikaans and moreSouvenirs / Handcrafts:
South Africa, and especially Swaziland, are well known for their handcrafts.

At roadside stalls in the tourist areas you will find handcrafts of all descriptions including beautiful wood carvings, beadwork, and stone sculptures. In the souvenir shops all this and more is available. At the roadside stalls it is customary to bargain with the seller, in the shops the prices are fixed.

Should you buy wooden carvings, it is recommended that you treat them with an insecticide, as there are often wood-boring beetles present - always look for the tell-tale little holes in the carving. Please check with your local Customs and Excise Department and check on the import regulations with respect to your particular country.


Tourist Season:
High season in South Africa starts already in August and lasts through to May. The months of September and October, as well as January through to May, are peak arrival times for visitors from around the world.

Language in South Africa:
South Africa has 11 official languages, however English is the language of Government and business. In all shops, hotels etc. English is spoken.

General Tourist Hints:
  • The prices you pay in the shops include 14% VAT. VAT is refundable on leaving the country on production of the goods and receipts, and the total purchases must exceed R250.00.  VAT is not refundable for services, food or accommodation.
  • There are airport taxes to be paid on leaving the country, but these are mostly included in the initial purchase of your air-ticket. Please check with your travel agent.
  • Official licensed cabs or taxis do not cruise the streets - they need to be ordered through the hotel / guest house reception, but in general are readily available.

Hints:

  • Beware of criminals at the ATM machines - a favourite trick is to offer "help", and then swap cards when you are not looking. Just politely decline any such offer.
  • Telephone usage in hotels etc is expensive - it is far better to buy a pre-paid card for use in public telephones.
  • When you see a souvenir you like at a roadside stall - buy it there. It is unlikely that you will see the same item in another place as the handcrafts tend to have a "local flavour"
  • Tips - usually 10 - 15% of the bill in restaurants. Very few restaurants include the service fee, and if they do it will clearly be stated on the menu. A tip is given for good service only - it is not required, and definitely not necessary if you are unhappy with the service.
  • As a rough guide - on group tours a porter will be paid R3.00 per person for the luggage, individually R5.00 per room is normal. A fuel pump attendant will normally get R2.00 - R4.00 for filling your car, checking the oil, pumping the tires and cleaning the windscreen. A parking attendant/car watch person will get R4.00 for watching the parking area. In a bar - R2.00 per drink is a good tip.
  • All persons involved in the tourism industry rely on tips - porters, waiters, hotel staff, coach and bus drivers, tour guides. Any and every tip is appreciated.
  • NB - REMEMBER THAT TIPS ARE ONLY FOR GOOD OR EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE.

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General Travel Information on South Africa supplied by Touch Africa Safaris
Travel Information, Tourist Information and Tourism Hints for Visitors to South Africa