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South Africa Travel Guide

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Full country name: The Republic of South Africa
Area: 1,219,090 sq km
Population: 49,05 million
Capital City: Pretoria (official); Bloemfontein (judicial) and Cape Town (legislative).
Languages: Afrikaans, Xhosa, English, Zulu, Tswana
Religion: Zion Christian 11.1%, Pentecostal/Charismatic 8.2%, Catholic 7.1%, Methodist 6.8%, Dutch Reformed 6.7%, Anglican 3.8%, Muslim 1.5%, other Christian 36%, other 2.3%, unspecified 1.4%, none 15.1%
Government: Republic and independent member of the British Commonwealth  
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +2
Dialling Code: 27
Electricity: 220/230V, 50Hz
Weights & measures: Metric

Money & Costs:
Currency: Rand
Average yearly salary: USD 10,300

Budget: R20-50
Mid-range: R50-80
High: R80-120
Top: R120+
Budget: R40-150
Mid-range: R150-250
High: R250-300
Top: R300+

Backpackers on a very tight budget could just about get by on US$10 a day. Travelling by bus or train, other than hitching, will bump this up considerably as the road is long and public transport can be expensive. Staying in hotels with private facilities, eating a couple of restaurant meals a day and travelling by bus or train will cost US$40-60 a day. Tipping is expected because of the very low wages, with 10-15% being usual.

Most banks change travellers cheques in major currencies. Keep a few exchange receipts as you'll need them to reconvert your Rand when you leave. Major credit cards, are widely accepted. Many ATMs give cash advances and if your card belongs to the worldwide Cirrus network you should have no problem using it across the country.

Geography: South Africa is a richly diverse country of incredible beauty, offering the traveller an abundance of exciting destinations and attractions. It lies at the southern end of the African continent. It is bounded by the Indian Ocean to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and is bordered to the north by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland and totally encloses Lesotho. South Africa has three major geographical regions, namely plateau, mountains and the coastal belt. The high plateau has sharp escarpments which rise above the plains. Despite two major river systems, the Limpopo and the Orange, most of the plateau lacks surface water. Along the coastline are sandy beaches and rocky coves, and the vegetation is shrub-like. The mountainous regions which run along the coastline from the Cape of Good Hope to the Limpopo Valley in the northeast of the country are split into the Drakensberg, Nuweveldberg and Stormberg ranges.

Following the 1994 elections, South Africa was organised into nine regions. These comprise the Western Cape with its provincial and national capital of Cape Town, the Eastern Cape with its provincial capital of Bisho, the Northern Cape with its provincial capital Kimberley, KwaZulu-Natal with its provincial capital Pietermaritzburg, the Free State with its provincial capital of Bloemfontein, the North West Province with its provincial capital Mmabatho, Limpopo (formerly called the Northern Province) with its provincial capital Polokwane (formerly called Pietersburg), Mpumalanga with its provincial capital of Nelspruit, and Gauteng with its provincial capital of Johannesburg.

Climate: South Africa's climate is generally sunny and pleasant. Winters are usually mild, although snow falls on the mountain ranges of the Cape and Natal and occasionally in lower-lying areas, when a brief cold spell can be expected throughout the country.

Recommended clothing: Since South Africa enjoys a hot summer climate, lightweight and short-sleeved clothes are recommended for a holiday between October and March. Long-sleeved clothes may be required only for cooler evenings. During the winter months (April - September), a rain jacket and warmer clothes will be needed. Brown, khaki and beige clothes are usually worn on safaris. A pair of comfortable and sturdy shoes are advised if you're planning on going bush walking. A hat and sunglasses are required for the daytime activities.

Social conventions: Casual wear is widely acceptable, and only formal social functions may require a dinner jacket and a black tie for men and full-length dresses for women. Smoking is prohibited in most public areas. There are places with special smoking sections at restaurants, in hotels, and etc.

Health: Medical facilities are of a good quality in urban areas, but are limited elsewhere. You should note, that doctors often require immediate cash payment. Travel health insurance is required to cover the fees of private facilities. No special vaccinations or immunizations are required to enter the country. However, Kruger National Park, northern KwaZulu-Natal, and Mpumalanga are low risk malaria areas, especially from December to April.

Food & Drink: Since South Africa has such a wide diversity of cultures and religions, the country's cuisine is sometimes called 'the rainbow cuisine'. With South Africa having so many different cultures and beliefs, you will also find that certain foods are very or even too exotic: crocodile sirloin, fried caterpillars and even sheep heads are a daily delicacy by some of the locals. Typical South African foods and dishes also include: Bobotie (a meatloaf with raisins and with baked egg on top, served with yellow rice, sambals, coconut, banana slices, and chutney), Bunny chow (curry stuffed into a hollowed-out loaf of bread), Gesmoorde vis (salted cod with potatoes and tomatoes and sometimes served with apricot jam), Koeksisters (a sweet delicacy; Afrikaans koeksisters are twisted pastries, deep fried and heavily sweetened. Cape Flats koeksisters are sweet and spicy, shaped like large eggs, and deep-fried), Mielie-meal (one of the staple foods, often used in baking but predominantly cooked into pap or phutu), Potjiekos (a traditional Afrikaans stew made with meat and vegetables and cooked over coals in cast-iron pots), and etc. South African wines are popular throughout the world. Beers are also very popular between the locals. Tap water is considered safe to drink, but bottled water is recommended instead.

Public Holidays:
Jan 1 New Year's Day
Mar 21 Human Rights Day
Varies between Mar 22 & Apr 25 Good Friday
Mar 28 Family Day
Apr 27 Freedom Day
May 1 Worker's Day
June 16 Youth Day
Aug 9 National Women's Day
Sep 24 Heritage Day
Dec 16 Day of Reconciliation
Dec 25 Christmas Day
Dec 26 Day of Goodwill

Note: Holidays falling on a Sunday are observed the following Monday.

Disclaimer: The above information is for reference purposes only. The content of this page is not intended to substitute for advice given by the user's own government travel departments or a licensed travel health advisor. The viewer/user of this web page should always contact the user's own government representatives in that area for the most up-to-date information at that time, before making a final decision to travel to that country or destination.

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