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Travelers Tips

South Africa

South Africa is a large, scenically splendid and humanly diverse country and home to approximately 50 million people. It’s size (1,219,090 km²) makes it bigger than Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and Holland put together, or Texas and California combined.
Washed by the cold Benguela current on the west coast and the warm Mozambique-Agulhas current on the east, the country has a long coastline of 2,954 kilometres, a temperate climate and a topography ranging from highveld grasslands to bleak semi-desert to subtropical swamps. Within these contrasting zones, some of the world’s most diverse animal and plant kingdoms are found. South Africa is the only country in the world with an entire floral kingdom, the Cape ‘fynbos’, within it’s boundaries. It is flanked by the Indian Ocean on the east and the Atlantic on the west. It is bordered by Namibia to the north-west, Botswana and Zimbabwe to the north and by Mozambique to the north-east, while the tiny land-locked countries of Swaziland and Lesotho lie within the geographical area of South Africa.

South Africa is rated somewhere between a first and 3rd world country and if you keep this in mind your holiday will be very enjoyable. The country has a vibrant array of cultures, which is more evident in the major metropolitan areas.

Car rental

Rentals are available throughout the country. South Africa drives on the left and has an excellent network of roads, linking the largest metropolitan areas to the remotest villages. Speed limits: Urban areas 60 km/h, rural areas 100 km/h, freeways 120 km/h. An International Driving Permit is recommended (valid driver’s licenses are accepted, provided they have a clear photograph and English print).

Currency

Rand (R) = 100 cents. Denominations: coins – 10c, 20c, 50c, R1, R2, R5; notes – R10, R20, R50, R100, R200

Unlike most of Africa, shops and restaurants in South Africa only accepts the local currency (it is illegal – and is enforced – to trade in any foreign currency), called the South African Rand (ZAR or R). The best place to convert your local currency to Rand is at Bureau de Change outlets or at the major airports. Hotels also change money, but at a premium. Credit cards are widely accepted and Automated Teller Machines (ATM’s) are well distributed. When cashing money from your credit card at a bank, please have you passport available for inspection.

Time

South Africa is on GMT + 2

Drinking water

Tap water is 100% purified and safe to drink in major cities, towns and game reserves. Mineral water is available to purchase countrywide.

Electricity

220/230 volts AC

Entry requirements

Passport holders of more than 80 countries, including the USA, Canada, Japan and the EU can visit without visas. Contact your nearest SA Tourism office or South African Consulate for further advice.

Passports

Passports MUST be valid for at least six months from the guest’s return date. We recommend a validity of nine months to prevent any problems in this regard. There MUST be at least three blank visa pages in the passport (not endorsement pages). Guests have been refused entry due to not having sufficient blank visa pages in their passports.

Immunization

Yellow Fever – No vaccinations are required of visitors coming from the United States, Canada or Central Europe. People arriving in South Africa from a yellow fever zone must have a valid international yellow fever inoculation certificate. Infants under the age of one year are exempt. Immunisation against cholera and small pocks is not required.

Malaria – Malaria is an illness of tropical and subtropical regions. The disease is caused by a parasite which is transmitted to human beings bitten by infected mosquitoes only. It occurs in the northern and north-eastern corners of South Africa. However, the government recently intervened and through controlled insecticide spraying reduced the incidence of the illness by more than 80% in the north- eastern parts of KwaZulu-Natal, southern Mozambique, Swaziland and southern Kruger National Park, turning it effectively into a low risk area. The highest risk period is the summer season (November to April) and the lowest risk period is late winter (July to October). The Cape, Drakensberg, Highveld (interior plateau), Kalahari and Karoo are free of malaria all year round. The following websites offers excellent information and advice on malaria prophylaxis, malaria in general and required inoculations:

www.travelclinic.co.za

www.malaria.org.za

Prevention of Malaria

Personal protection measures against mosquito bites include the use of an appropriate insect repellent containing di-ethyl toluamide (also known as DEET), the wearing of clothing (light coloured) to conceal as much of the body as practical from dusk to dawn, sleeping under mosquito nets, and the spraying of sleeping quarters at night with a suitable parathyroid containing insecticide, or the burning of an insecticide laden coil.

Medical services

South Africa boasts excellent medical facilities that can be favourably compared with those in developed countries. Hospitals in the cities have some of the latest medical equipment and the staff is world class. Ground and air casualty evacuation is also comprehensive and well organised.
However, all medical treatment must be paid for, and therefore we recommend that you invest in medical insurance.

Transport

International and domestic airlines operate between the main cities, with charter services available. Coach tours operate daily nation-wide with Greyhound Citiliner, Translux Express and Intercape among the largest. Intercity train services are good with regular bus services available. Local taxis don’t cruise! Call the taxi companies or find them at a centrally located taxi rank (usually at city centers and major airports). Make sure the meter starts from zero.

Climate

Seasons are opposite to those in the Northern hemisphere.

Here are the weather conditions in some of the most popular and well-known areas:

Western Cape and Garden Route
This area enjoys warm and dry summers – excellent beach weather – with  mild  winters, which is also the rainy season in the form of light continuous rain. Then there are the glorious sunny days in between which makes up for any mood changes for the worst while it’s raining. The central Garden Route has an all year rainy season and great sunny days to overshadow the odd rainy days. Occasional wind is experienced from August to December.
Summer average maximum day temperatures = 27 C      80 F
Summer average minimum night temperatures =  15 C      59 F
Winter average maximum day temperatures    =  19 C      67 F
Winter average minimum night temperatures  =      8 C      46 F
Rainfall in summer (average monthly)  =  16 mm
Rainfall in winter (average monthly)    =   85 mm

Gauteng, Free State and the Limpopo and Mpumalanga Highveld
Here you can expect hot and sunny summers with the occasional afternoon thunder showers cooling things down a little. Winters are mild, sunny and dry days with crisp to cold nights and the odd light frosty night in the middle of winter.
Summer average maximum day temperatures =  28  C      83 F
Summer average minimum night temperatures =  14 C      56 F
Winter average maximum day temperatures    =  17 C      63 F
Winter average minimum night temperatures  =      6 C      43 F
Rainfall in summer (average monthly)  =  105 mm
Rainfall in winter (average monthly)   =   6 mm

Mpumalanga and Limpopo Lowveld, Kruger National Park and surroundings
These areas have a much lower altitude than the ones described above and enjoy warm weather with more humidity. They are in the summer rainfall areas with typical  thundershowers  in the late afternoon. Winters are mild, dry and comfortable.
Summer average maximum day temperatures =  29  C      85 F
Summer average minimum night temperatures =  18 C      65 F
Winter average maximum day temperatures    =  23 C      74 F
Winter average minimum night temperatures  =     7 C       45 F
Rainfall in summer (average monthly)  =  114 mm
Rainfall in winter (average monthly)     =   10 mm

KwaZulu-Natal East Coast
This area is sub-tropical  and therefore enjoys mostly hot  days  and warm balmy nights. Summers are sunny, hot and humid with summer rainfall in the form of late afternoon to evening thunder showers.  Winters are extremely mild with warm, dry and sunny days. The area is hence described as South Africa’s winter holiday Mecca.
Summer average maximum day temperatures =  28  C      83 F
Summer average minimum night temperatures =  20 C      68 F
Winter average maximum day temperatures    =  23 C      74 F
Winter average minimum night temperatures  =   12 C      54 F
Rainfall in summer (average monthly)  =  118 mm
Rainfall in winter (average monthly)     =   30 mm

KwaZulu-Natal Interior
The temperatures in this area varies considerably because of  very diverse altitudes. However, it falls in the summer rainfall and dry sunny winter region. It is therefore mostly sunny and pleasant all year round with crisp to cold winter nights.
Summer average maximum day temperatures =  29  C      85 F
Summer average minimum night temperatures =  16 C      61 F
Winter average maximum day temperatures    =  21 C      70 F
Winter average minimum night temperatures  =     4 C      40 F
Rainfall in summer (average monthly)  =  113 mm
Rainfall in winter (average monthly)     =   14 mm

 

KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg Mountains
This part of the Drakensberg Mountain range is the highest  in South  and Southern Africa. Around 3500 metres at the highest point, it has a volatile weather pattern. Generally though, it falls in the summer rainfall region with dry sunny winter months and a few light snowfalls at the top every winter. Visitors to the high areas of the mountain are always reminded to be prepared for sudden weather changes. The reality is that this is a magic area to visit and one cannot get enough of the scenic beauty of this  area. The temperatures given are the ones at the foothills of the mountain.
Summer average maximum day temperatures =  28  C      83 F
Summer average minimum night temperatures = 10 C       50 F
Winter average maximum day temperatures    =  19 C      67 F
Winter average minimum night temperatures  =      3 C     38 F
Rainfall in summer (average monthly)  =  100 mm
Rainfall in winter (average monthly)     =   20 mm

Summer: September – April

Most of South Africa falls within a summer rainfall region – except for the Western Cape.

It can get hot to very hot in the north and east and mild to warm on the interior plateau.

Afternoon thunderstorms are common, though cool and overcast weather can also be experienced.

Summers in the Western Cape (Cape Town and Winelands area) are usually dry and hot.

Winter: May – August

Winters on the Highveld (inland plateau) can be cold to very cold overnight and in the early mornings while days are usually cool to mild, though occasional cold snaps can make it cold all day. Minimal changes of rain are expected.

The eastern coastal regions and the Lowveld (Kruger National Park area) has cool to mild nights and warm to sometimes hot days. Minimal changes of rain are expected.

The Western Cape and Garden Route areas has cool and wet winters in general.

When is the best time to visit?

For general travel the best months in South Africa are probably during spring/early summer (September/October), or late summer/autumn (March/April). Temperatures throughout the country should be mild to warm, with only a small possibility of rain.

For game viewing purposes the winter months (May to August) are probably best. In winter, with limited water sources available, animal activity is generally around water holes and the bush is dry and thin, which makes visibility better and game spotting easier.

The Kruger Park area can be uncomfortably hot during the months of November, December and January, with daytime temperatures occasionally going up to 40 degrees Celsius(104F)or more. The rainy season in the northern parts of South Africa is also during these months.

Best Birding Months

Best Birding Months are during the summer from November to March and early April when the birds are in breeding mode and the Palearctic and Intra-African Migrants are present. Species with breeding season plumage such as Weavers, Widowbirds and Bishops are in full breeding regalia. This goes for all regions except the Western Cape, which is a winter rainfall area and for which the best birding months are during the spring from late July to the middle of October.

Best mammal viewing months

Mammal viewing peaks in the dry season, from June to mid-November. During these months water is scarce and thus the animals are more concentrated around water holes and rivers. Furthermore, the depleted foliage allows for better viewing and photographic opportunities. During the summer, when there is abundant water, the animals are generally more dispersed. Each season however has its own appeal, such as the mass birth of impala lambs during early summer, and game viewing can be very good throughout the year.

What to bring

Recommended clothing and other miscellaneous items to bring along:

Safaris are extremely informal holidays and the main goal is to pack lightly and smartly.  Loose fitting, casual and comfortable clothing is recommended, as you will be spending the majority of your safari wildlife viewing in a vehicle. Be prepared for daily highs ranging from the mid 20 C to the mid 30 C and lows in the 12 C and 20 C except during the cold season (May, June, July and August) when the lows can drop down into single figures.

There is little or no opportunity for fashion while on safari. All the lodges allow casual clothing and traditional safari wear. In the evenings smart casual clothing is mostly accepted. There is a large temperature range each day and it is recommended to wear layers enabling you to adjust to the varying temperatures.

It can be quite cold on early morning game drives and long pants and a warm sweater are needed, especially in the winter months.

During the summer months it is important that you wear a wide brimmed hat and apply sun block frequently to all exposed areas. Lighter and more natural colours such as khaki, brown, beige, olive and green should be worn during the day. During the nights, the colour of your clothing is irrelevant. From dusk to dawn, it is recommended that you protect yourself from mosquitoes by wearing pants, long sleeved shirts, socks and shoes plus insect repellent.

Please see below for a recommended African safari packing list:

Safari Clothing

  • One pair of comfortable walking shoes (i.e. sneakers, cross training or light hiking shoes)
  • One pair of sandals or flip-flops
  • Casual, comfortable and loose fitting clothing in khaki, brown, beige, green and olive colours made of natural fabrics such as cotton
  • T-shirts and light tops
  • Long-sleeved shirts/blouses
  • Shorts
  • Light long pants or convertible long-short pants
  • One warm fleece or sweater
  • One Swimsuit
  • Cotton socks and underwear
  • Pyjamas
  • Hat and bandana
  • Light rain coat/umbrella for rainy months – and visits to Victoria Falls!
  • Heavy sweater, warm gloves, knit hat and scarf for the cold season (May – August)
  • Lightweight jacket or windbreaker (Recommended all year round)

Africa is a continent of extremes, it can be freezing cold in the morning (in winter) and boiling hot by midday. So it’s a good idea to wear cool garments as your first layer and then you can remove the warmer outer layers once things start heating up, as they almost always tend to do later in the day. Early morning and sunset drives can get chilly (yes, it does get cold in Africa), so be sure to have your jacket ready at all times (especially in open vehicles). A pair of trousers is also appreciable to feel at ease. Gloves, a scarf and a woollen hat (beanie) are recommended as well for the open vehicle game drives in winter.

Tips and Gratuities

In the restaurants, service is not included. A minimum of 10% tip is recommended according to your level of satisfaction. For luggage porters, R10 Rand per piece of luggage is

current practice. If you travel on a guided tour, tips and porterage are included, in which case tipping the driver and the guide is expected and customary.